Last year was a busy and deeply rewarding year for the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. The primary mission of OICA is to advocate for children in the state of Oklahoma and to ensure that laws passed and policies implemented by governmental agencies are beneficial for all our children. I am proud to report we were successful on that front; we worked with lawmakers to see multiple child-friendly laws implemented, and we managed to prevent a few detrimental bills from passing. 

Thanks to our many supporters, we also grew several programs and services this past year, including the Heroes Ball, our annual banquet to recognize the true heroes for children in our state; OK-LEAD, our three-day leadership symposium for young Oklahomans; the Melvin and Jasmine Moran Kidizenship Award, which recognizes young Oklahomans doing great work for their peers; the Laura Choate Resilience Award, which honors an Oklahoman who has overcome adversity to give back to others; the OICA Fall Forum, our annual conference, which helps shape an aggressive legislative agenda for better policy; our Child Advocacy Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol, which raises awareness and encourages Oklahomans to contact lawmakers; and our OK foster wishes program, which ensures that all of our children in the Foster Care system have gifts for the holiday season.

I am pleased to report, as we conclude 2018, the projects we finalized exceeded our expectations. The OICA calendar is at the printer and will be ready for viewing later in January (the months for the OICA calendar run from Feb. 1, the first month of the legislative session, to Jan. 31. We also wanted to be just a little different.). You can purchase one from our website at oica.org starting mid-January.

OK Foster Wishes, our other program which we finalized at the end of December, was a huge success thanks to the many partners we had. First, we greatly appreciate the hundreds of Oklahomans who filled wish lists, ranging from one to 500 lists taken by individuals and organizations. Thank you to Hobby Lobby for providing the warehouse space for OICA and DHS to use to distribute gifts to the various counties. We also want to thank those at DHS who helped do significant work to ensure this program could be successful. We also greatly appreciate the many donors who contributed to keeping our Santa Store filled for those children who came into care after the listed deadline. We appreciate you all!

As we begin a new year, we look forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead of us in 2019. We will be working with a new governor and executive branch, as well as many new and recently elected legislators (70 percent of lawmakers now have two years or less experience in office). Our team at OICA will continue to fight for the children of Oklahoma, and we appreciate each of you for being a part of this effort that is greater than any one person or organization. It is only through the collaborative effort of all of us together that we will help improve Oklahoma for all children and allow better opportunities for our youngest Oklahomans. From the board and staff of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, thank you for all that you do for the betterment of children in Oklahoma!