Safe Passage was designed to address the issues that previous advocacy models had with cost and effectiveness through a strategy based on:
- Citizen involvement
- Financial sustainability
- Driving improvements with data
- Becoming a trusted source of information on child welfare
Our commitment to citizen involvement is rooted in our founder’s experience as a community organizer and our belief that passionate individuals can change public priorities.
Also, our research on previous failed child welfare reform efforts showed that they typically had a seven to ten-year life cycle during which performance improved in early years, but later faded. This happened because most initiatives were led by small groups of people in leadership positions, usually the state human services commissioner and a few legislators. When those individuals moved on, as they invariably did, the reforms lost momentum. Safe Passage addresses this problem through a renewable pool of citizen advocates.
Citizen volunteers are also very effective because as constituents they are nearly always able to obtain access to their legislators. Moreover, our volunteers are passionate. Many of them have a strong desire to improve child welfare because they have been involved firsthand in child protection – for example, as school personnel or other professionals, foster parents or guardians ad litem, or as children in the system. This increases the credibility of their advocacy because it is based on experience.
Past child welfare reform initiatives were hard to sustain because most advocacy programs were based on expensive ‘think-tanks’ which employ high-level staff to develop policy and cost a Minnesota-sized state approximately $1 million annually. With our volunteer-based approach, we estimate we can run a statewide organization with an annual budget of $300,000.