This trip was to learn about the legislative process which includes moving a bill through the House and Senate to become new laws. For example, this is the same process that allowed children with special needs to be able to attend school. The woman who ran that bill through the legislative process is named Cecil and she is one of the leaders of this Leadership Development Program. She passed that bill in the 1960's so her cousin, Tom, could attend school after finding out that Tom wasn't allowed to go to school in the Seattle School District because he had a diagnosis of Down syndrome. Tom would sit at the window every morning and watch the school bus pick up children every day wishing he could one day be on that bus too. So Cecil made it happen. She has quickly become one of Mommy's heroes.
Part of the conference included training on how to testify before councils in favor (or against) a bill. We also learned about current bills about to go before the House and Senate. One of these bills includes the Infant Toddler Equity Act (ITEA). It's a bill that Mommy really wants to see pass and so her practice testimony was in favor of this bill. She wrote a testimony and has decided to put it out for everyone to read. Hopefully, this will motivate all you Washingtonians to contact your local representative to get them to vote in favor of this bill. Here is what Mommy would say:
Good Afternoon Chairperson and members of of the Committee. My name is Kristy Gillig and I am a resident of Bellingham, WA. I am in favor of the Infant Toddler Equity Act and I represent my son, Dylan. Dylan is a 2 year-old with the diagnosis of Down syndrome. Dylan is currently enrolled in the Birth-to-three program and we receive our services from Whatcom Center of Early Learning and St. Joseph Hospital's Children's Neurodevelopmental Program.
This Birth-to-three program has greatly benefitted my son. By receiving Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Peer Playgroups, and much more, Dylan has accomplished so many things. This includes the ability to sign over 90 words, to walk, to communicate his needs, and to become the fun-loving toddler that will give you "knuckles" in the grocery store. These accomplishments can be directly attributed to the hard work and guidance we have received through the Birth-to-three program.
Since we are currently involved with this wonderful program, we witness firsthand the needs for better funding. We have seen children have to wait for services that they are entitled to receive immediately due to staff shortages; We have also seen a huge population growth of children requiring services as our peer playgroups are over capacity; and Most importantly, we have witnessed therapists have to spend valuable time fundraising to receive the monies for essential tools to use - time that should best be served with the children requiring these tools.
The ITEIP is an entitlement program that has experienced an average growth of 8% statewide for each of the last five years according to Wee Care Coalition but even with this substantial population of children requiring services, there has been no increase in fiscal dollars to help support this growing need. Therefore the bill would require an fiscal impact of new dollars annually in the amount of $5,502, 703 with a percentage increase (annually) as our population continues to grow.
But with that said, this cost is minimal to state dollars spent if these children did not receive these services. These vital services help give children the ability to become productive and contributing citizens of Washington state. Without these funds, children like my son, Dylan, would require more state dollars because he would be dependent on more specialized care. By investing in our children now, you are saving in the future. And just as any parent would love to see their children succeed, my hope is that Dylan will be independent and fulfill his own potentials. The Birth-to-three program has given him a great start to this dream.
Thank you for your attention and I urge you to vote in favor of the Infant Toddler Equity Act.