Our United Voice

Kids Have Voices Worth Listening to…Hear Them Out

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Regan Hunt, Executive Director
Kentucky Voices for Health
For the past 11 years hundreds of Kentuckians of all ages have convened in Frankfort during the legislative session for Children’s Advocacy Day at the Capitol. Those who attend have one thing in common: we all want Kentucky to be the best place in America to be a kid!

What's amazing about this particular day is that kids are actually telling us what we can all do to change the world today and in the future. To quote Kid President, “If you make the world better for kids, you make it better for everybody." But how?

Start with something that impacts daily life.

I recently watch a documentary about The Rethinkers
, a group of kids (and supportive adults) in New Orleans advocating for better school breakfasts and lunches, going so far as meeting with the corporation that provides the food they eat. These kids were passionate, armed with data, and driven to change their world. And, they did! The students helped negotiate a signed contract promising fresh, local produce that would be served at least twice a week in every school in the district's cafeterias.

That's an example of how advocacy begins, by starting with something—a topic, social issue, or person—that you immediately connect with and want to make a difference. It can be big change like in New Orleans, or it could be small like asking for donations to a local animal shelter instead of birthday gifts - like my niece Bailey. No one suggested this idea to her; she came up with it on her own. Each one of us has an advocate inside, we just need to find it!

Give kids the tools to advocate and you will see amazing things happen.

Each year there is a common advocacy agenda in our state called the Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children. This is an advocacy tool for youth and child advocates that gives information about issues in order to challenge our state legislators to stand up for kids; we used it during Children's Advocacy Day.

This year’s Blueprint included several priorities, including one focused on improving accessibility and affordability of quality early childhood education that directly supports the Metro United Way aspiration that all children enter kindergarten ready to learn.
There were also two issues that over 200 youth felt were important enough to speak up about: a statewide smoke-free law and extending protective orders.

Kids were in Frankfort on Children’s Advocacy Day to say that everyone in Kentucky has the right to breathe smoke-free indoor air…especially kids! Right now, only about 33% of Kentuckians are covered by local smoke-free ordinances or regulations that cover workplaces and enclosed public places. In areas without local laws, kids are the biggest losers. Kentucky has one of the highest rates of child asthma in the United States, a condition that is exacerbated by smoke such as secondhand smoke. If we want Kentucky to be the best place to be a kid, shouldn’t it be a healthy place to be a kid?

Teens also met with Kentucky legislators on Children’s Advocacy Day and used their voices for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking to help them seek interpersonal protective orders (IPO). Did you know that 14% of high school students in Kentucky experience dating violence? Did you know that Kentucky is the last state in the country to pass protective orders for victims of dating violence? I didn’t. All Kentuckians, especially children, should feel safe and be protected.

Kids always need your listening ears: today, tomorrow, and in the weeks to come.

Children’s Advocacy Day is an important day, yet it is just one day of the legislative session. I know grownups can change the world, but I do this work because I believe kids can change the world. It just takes all of us working together. Help them find their voice. You can make a difference by listening to what the kids in your life have to say about their world and their experiences in it.

How will you help a child change their world?

Regan Hunt is the Executive Director of Kentucky Voices for Health, a statewide health advocacy coalition. She is a native Kentuckian and Louisville is her adopted hometown. She is an aunt to six awesome Kentucky kids ages 3-10 and a Big Sister to Taylor, who will turn 20 in March.


  1. So true we need to listen more to the children and support their decisions especially when they are thinking outside the box. Children are the most important future that we have. Love this. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Your written articles shared on Facebook are enlightening and wonderful. Thank you.

  3. Thank you so much for the feedback, Norma!


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