Family Advocacy Week 2021: “We’re Stronger Together"

This year, 50 patient families from 39 children’s hospitals in 21 states gathered virtually to participate in the Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Week to advocate for children’s health care. The past year and a half have been challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic and these families showed resilience and courage as they gathered to share personal stories on what strength looks like and means to them. By coming together to share their stories, they spoke and acted locally, while having an impact nationally.

Families met with their congressional leaders to advocate for better child mental health services and investments in children’s health and health care delivery. They asked their lawmakers to strengthen the pediatric safety net for all children, invest in the training of tomorrow’s pediatricians and pediatric specialists and support legislation like the Accelerating Kids Access to Care Act, which improves cross-state access to care for children covered by Medicaid.

Although Family Advocacy Week was virtual this year, that didn’t stop our patient champions from connecting and raising their voices together. One family from this year’s Family Advocacy Week shared: “It was great for us - we wouldn’t have been able to travel to WDC [Washington, DC] even before Covid. So, to have the chance to connect with our senators and reps from home was super easy. I am sure there are things lost by not being there in person, but we felt like it was still an important opportunity to connect.”

This year we had several behavioral and mental health advocates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from April to October of 2020, hospitals across the U.S. saw a 24% increase in the proportion of mental health emergency department visits for kids ages 5 to 11 compared with the same period in 2019.

Many teens were mentally affected by the pandemic, one of which being Zach Sampson who received care from Wolfson Children’s Hospital and recently shared his story with national press and lawmakers. “Even though Zach’s father and I have worked in mental health for many years, we failed to realize the seriousness of our son’s illness,” says Jennifer, Zach’s mother. “Thankfully, a friend reported his suicidal ideation to authorities, and we immediately got the ball rolling toward help and healing. We are just thankful that it was recognized, and that Zach is now receiving the treatment he needs,” said Jennifer.

This year patient families logged over 200 meetings with their members of Congress. Family Advocacy Week garnered over 100 million media impressions through digital ads, social media posts, and traditional news stories, helping make the case that the needs of children and youth must be considered when national decisions on health policy are made.

Help support kids’ health care and contact your lawmakers on important child health issues by visiting our advocacy center.

To learn more about the 2021 Family Advocacy Week, watch our recap video below: