From Petition Creator Caroline Cottingham: On Monday, when the legislative session officially came to a close, the Louisiana House and Senate passed HB1, the 2012-2013 budget, with almost $25 million (including $6 million from the federal government) for Early Steps. This means our children will continue to receive services for another year! Just so everyone knows, last year Early Steps met 95% of the program's performance goals across the state, making it one of the most efficient and effective state programs. To everyone who signed this petition: THANK YOU. Thank you for standing up for children who could not stand up for themselves. Thank you for passing this petition on, for sending letters, and for testifying in front of the Senate Finance Committee. This would not have been possible without every single one of you. Several people suggested to me that Early Steps and its supporters were simply a pawn in a political game between the Governor and the Legislature. They said that the cuts were a threat but not a serious one. Maybe this is true; I seriously doubt any of us who are not involved in politics will ever know for sure. I made a choice on a few weeks ago. I could fail by doing nothing and losing the opportunity, or I could fail by writing a petition that wasn’t necessary. It’s clear which road I took. I did not want to look back and ask, “Why did we not fight?” I did not want to gamble with the possibility that thousands of kids would lose their services while we said nothing. In response to the suggestion that we are all pawns, I offer this: In less than two weeks, we introduced thousands of people to Early Steps. I hope some of them are the parents of children who need this service. I hope parents look for us and find us because now they know we are here to help. Early Steps is in every parish, in every city in Louisiana; early intervention programs are in every state in the U.S. If you need help, please reach out. I hope next year, when budget cuts come up again, that legislators remember Early Steps. I hope they remember that thousands of voters in Louisiana, many of them parents or family members of these children, support this program and others like it. I hope they remember that we are here to fight back for the services these children desperately need. This fight will not end this week; we will be back at the table, begging legislatures to recognize the needs of our kids again next year. Most importantly, I hope this week has shown Early Steps children and their parents that they are not alone. For families who struggle with the needs of their children, please know that we are in this together. 20,000+ people are here with you. And finally, I hope this is a reminder that participating in democracy is important. If you see a program getting cut that you believe in, say something. You will never know the power of your voice until you raise it. Your vote and your voice matter. I send all my love to all the Early Steps kids, past and present, who have touched my heart. These kids and their families are my heros, and I’m blessed to work with them every day. Sincerely, Caroline If you have serious concerns about your infant or toddler’s development or your child is diagnosed with a disability, you can contact the system point of entry (SPOE) office for your child to be screened here: http://new.dhh.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/directory/detail/609 Here is a list of age-appropriate developmental milestones for children: http://www.child-development-guide.com/child-development-milestone.html If your child is over three years old and you have serious concerns about his or her development or your child is diagnosed with a disability, please contact your local school district Child Search office to have your child evaluated for services. If your child is over five years old and you have serious concerns about his or her development or your child is diagnosed with a disability, contact your local school district Special Education department or talk to the school counselor to have your child evaluated for services.
This is the super succinct version of what is going on currently: The Senate agreed to use the "Rainy Day Fund" which the House had originally said it would not use. This money would address the cuts in the Department of Health and Hospitals and the Department of Education budgets. The Senate Finance Committee approved the budget with the DHH (and Early Steps) budget, contingent on use of these funds and a few other sources of funding to fill in the revenue gaps. The House must approve the exact same budget, and both houses must approve the exact same bill. They must wrap this whole kit-and-kaboodle up and send it to the governor for his signature before the legislative session ends Monday. Please continue writing letters and calling legislators until they have passed everything and we are 100% in the clear!
Early Steps provides free therapy to 9,000 children each year ages birth to three years old who have developmental delays and disabilities. Early Steps has therapists in urban and rural areas across the state, and the program services every single parish in Louisiana. Do you know a child with Down syndrome or cerebral palsy? Do you know a baby that was born premature or underweight? Do you know a child with a speech delay or a physical delay? These are the children in Early Steps. This program provides physical therapist, social workers, occupational therapists, teachers, and speech therapists who work with children in their home or daycare. We serve children in foster care, children born as young as 24 weeks old, children who are low-income and high risk.
In the two years I have worked as a Family Service Coordinator for Early Steps, I have seen over 200 children. I have held a mother's hand as she watched her child with cerebral palsy walk for the first time. I have seen a completely deaf child under a year old use sign language to request food. I have seen children with severe autism, children missing limbs, and children who probably will not make it to their third birthday. This program works miracles every day. We give parents the tools and knowledge to help their children learn and grow. We give hope to families who feel lost and alone. We give children a chance.
The Finance Committees of the House and Senate are working on the 2012-2013 budget right NOW. Early Steps is on the list of programs to be cut due to budget cuts. PLEASE HELP US SAVE THIS PROGRAM. The thousands of children who benefit from therapy, along with their parents and families, need your help.