The Board of Directors of the NWDSA just traveled to Washington, DC for a four-day conference with other Down syndrome parent groups from across the country. It was a good opportunity to learn about what other groups are doing, and share ideas and resources. We made some great connections while we were there, and came home with restored conviction that the work we are doing right here in Oregon is the most important work that we can be doing.
We joined with other conference attendees for a day on Capitol Hill, sharing our agenda with lawmakers. The day began with a Legislative Reception where we had the opportunity to hear from Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane, WA, and Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island, two founders of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus. The NWDSA’s All Born (In) banners helped to decorate the room, and illustrate the speeches that touched on inclusion, diversity and civil rights. We also shared the All Born (In) calendars with other conference attendees, asking that they present them as gifts on their legislative visits. Over 50 calendars were handed out on Capitol Hill that day. It is amazing to consider that our lawmakers have those hanging over their desks when they are making policy decisions that affect our families. We were very grateful to have the opportunity to share such a strong resource with others, and are glad that they are hanging on walls doing their good work.
It was very powerful to walk around in the halls of Congress sharing the stories of our families, and our hopes and dreams for our children. We met with the offices of Representatives David Wu of Oregon’s 1st District, and Brian Baird of Washington’s 3rd, as well as staffers from the offices of Washington Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray. Jen Brandse and Steven Holland had the opportunity to meet directly with Senator Jeff Merkley as well, and other board members met with Cathy McMorris Rodgers. We were grateful for the time we had with these folks, and look forward to continuing to build relationships with their home offices.
Washington, DC is a very busy place right now, and we enjoyed the opportunity to steal a few minutes to talk about issues that concern us. High on our list was a request for funding to pay for the Kennedy-Brownback Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Act. This bill passed easily last year, and requires medical professionals to offer parents the most complete and up-to-date information available about Down syndrome when handing out a diagnosis. This is an incredibly important issue for our community, particularly in light of increasing availability of prenatal testing. The original bill does not contain funding to put this into action, so one of our requests to legislators was to ask them to support funding of this bill so it can be fully implemented. For more information on this and other advocacy work on the federal level, please contact us or visit our website where we hope to post advocacy information soon.
While it was exciting and empowering to spend time in Washington, DC, we are grateful that the National Down Syndrome Society is committed to increasing the reach of its Policy Center, which will continue to advocate on behalf of all of our families. It was interesting and informative to talk with DC-based advocates about the work they are doing. DC is a very busy and complex place, and we came home with renewed faith that the work that we are doing to promote inclusion right here in our own community is just as important. More, it is the work we can do, the work we are doing, the work we do well.
We are more grateful than ever for the web of support that we have here in the Northwest for our work. It was your help and support that allowed us to go to DC, to carry our banners and calendars proudly with us, and it is your support that will help us make the 4th annual All Born “In” conference a day of empowerment and inspiration for area families and professionals committed to creating inclusive communities. It is your support that will help us reach out to all area families touched by Down syndrome and help get them off on a strong positive footing as they set out on this wonderful journey. And it is your help and support that will help us on our mission to change the world, as we work to create a community that is truly inclusive, and celebrates all its citizens.
To close, we come home humbled and empowered, and more committed than ever to continue with our work.
Thank you for your support.