How to Call or Meet with Your Members of Congress
I. Meeting with Your Members of Congress
One of the most effective ways to advocate for the Human Rights Legislation for Unparented Children Act is to meet with the Members of Congress who represent you, including both of the Senators who represent your state in the U.S. Senate and the Representative who represents your congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Senators and Representatives are often responsive to their constituents, so encourage your friends and family to reach out to them as well. In cases when the Senator or Representative’s schedule is too busy, you may be offered a meeting with a staff member. Don’t feel slighted, often times these meetings provide an opportunity to delve deeper into the issues you want to discuss.
Meetings can take place in Washington, D.C. or in one of the Senators’ or Representative’s local offices in your home state. Typically, the Senator or Representative will have a staff member attend your meeting as well. This staff member will likely be your point of contact going forward.
If you do not meet directly with your Member of Congress, ask that the staff member you meet with is responsible for legislative issues regarding human rights, children’s rights issues, or international adoption. This person works in the Washington D.C. office. If you can’t meet in person, ask for a telephone meeting.
If necessary, leave a voicemail
If you wind up in the Legislative Staffer’s voicemail, leave a detailed message, including your name, address (so as to demonstrate you are a constituent), phone number, and refer to the bill number (Senate S.1177; House H.R.2643) and its name, The Human Rights for Unparented Children Act. If you don’t hear back from the Legislative Staffer within three days, call again.
Explain the basics
Because Legislative Staffers’ time is stretched thin between many different issues, they might not be familiar with the key issues. Never assume a staffer knows what you’re talking about. Ask if they are familiar with the proposed Human Rights Legislation for Unparented Children, human rights issues, children’s rights issues, or international adoption before you begin your discussion.
Please include the following talking points in your discussion:
- Social science and early brain development science have proven the destructive impact on children denied the care of parents.
- We believe unparented children have the human right to be parented – as parenting is essential to nurture normal development.
- The proposed legislation seeks to shed light on the extent of the problem. Current best guess estimates are that 50 million children live on the streets and another 10 million are in orphanages or other institutions.
- Specifically, the legislation requires the Department of State (DOS) to report annually on human rights violations:
o By including in its Annual Country Reports the estimated number of children who are subject to the degrading, harmful conditions characteristic of state-sponsored care and life on the streets.
o Comparable violations involving adults are already included in these Country Reports (eg. Unjust institutionalization, wrongful institutional conditions, denial of right to travel).
- The bill requires no new funding or creation of any new positions.
- This legislation is designed to help change the worldwide debate about international adoption by recognizing that children's most important human right is to grow up with nurturing parents. It is designed to change the position of the U.S. Dept. of State so that it furthers this child human right.
Tell them what you are asking for:
Be sure to explicitly state that you would like the Member of Congress to support this legislation and, ideally, to agree to be a cosponsor (it is common for bills to have many cosponsors, sometimes hundreds of them. A sponsor is a senator or representative who introduces a bill. A cosponsor is a senator or representative who adds his or her name as a supporter to the sponsor's bill.) If the Member of Congress won't commit to being a cosponsor, ask that they a supporter (a Member who is a supporter of the legislation will be likely to vote for the legislation when the time comes to vote).
Refer them to this website for additional information and let them know they can reach out to any of those listed under the “Who We Are” section for more perspective.
Also refer them to the appropriate original sponsor of the bill:
· For House Republicans, refer them to Matthew Powell in Representative Tom Marino’s office.
· For Senate Republicans, refer them to Lauren McCormack in Senator Roy Blunt’s office.
End by Asking for a Time to Follow up:
Tell the Staffer you would like to check back sometime within the next couple of weeks to see what progress the Staffer has made in getting the issue to the Member of Congress and whether there are any additional questions or concerns that need to be addressed. Try and lock down a time for that follow up call.
Send a thank you via email:
Always send a thank you to the staffer for taking the time to meet with you. It serves as a reminder to the staffer.
Keep Following up:
Remember, the Member of Congress and his/her staff members work for you. Hold them accountable. Check in with them periodically, every week or two by email, until you have an answer as to whether the Member will support the legislation and be willing to cosponsor it.