I know it seems like the summer of 2019 is a long way off, but JDRF has opened up the application process for the next Children’s Congress. Now is the time to start thinking about if you want to apply and how your child can be a more qualified candidate.
I will give the caveat that I in no way have anything to do with the selection process or know what they are looking for in a candidate; these are just my opinions based on our own experience applying and participating.
Children’s Congress selects children with type 1 diabetes who will be aged 4 through 17 at the time of JDRFCC. Q was almost 11 when she attended, and I think that was a good age for her. She was able to make friends, tell her own story during our meetings, and introduce herself with confidence on stage. The teens also seemed to form a really tight group throughout the conference.
I know that younger kids have the “cuteness factor” and that it’s heart-breaking to see little, little kids who have to have injections and check their blood sugar. I know the cuteness factor can go a long way to persuade legislators that we need funding for research and access to care. But the days during Children’s Congress are LONG. I saw many a young child asleep on their parent’s lap. Some younger kids were too shy or overwhelmed to introduce themselves on stage. And there was A LOT of fast-paced walking when we were on the hill. We had to go from one end to the other and back again with a short time between meetings. Consider if you are applying because you want the opportunity to advocate or because your child wants to advocate. Consider whether your child is at an age that they can have a meaningful experience and if they will fully remember the experience.
Apply Multiple Times
We applied twice, and Q was selected the second time. While some children are selected the very first time they apply, some kids apply multiple times before being selected. Again I don’t know the selection criteria, but I think that sometimes decisions might be based on the number of applicants from a state or congressional district and might also be based on key members of congress who they need to reach.
Not to mention the fact that many, many fabulous d-kids who all deserve to go apply for each congress. It must be heart-breaking for the selection committee to say no to the vast majority of kids who apply.
Boost Your Application
I’m not saying to fabricate or exaggerate in your child’s application but think about ways that can make your child a better candidate and things that your child is already doing to raise money or awareness or provide support.
Since this is put on by JDRF, think about ways that your family or your d-kid is involved in JDRF. Are you a JDRF mentor, do you participate in walks, do you lead support groups, has your d-kid raised money or raised awareness at school or in the community?
Q and I attended a JDRF Promise Meeting with a congressman between her first and second application (not because we were thinking about the application, but because we wanted to do this outreach). Now is a great time to sign up to attend a Promise Meeting… even if you aren’t thinking about Children’s Congress. When we met with our congressman in his DC office, he remembered Q from our Promise Meeting in our hometown. A promise meeting is a good time to let legislators know why it’s important to think about children with diabetes when they make big decisions by sharing your child’s story.
The Essay and Application Questions
The first time Q applied she was too young to fully write her essay and answer the application questions. The second time around, I let her run with it. She thought about each question and answered in her own words about her own experience with diabetes. I think this is an important part of empowering our kids with diabetes…they need to form their own viewpoints about what is difficult for them and what is important to relay to others. I think that an application in the child with diabetes own words is much more powerful than one written by the parent.
Of course the parent perspective is important, too, but I personally feel that this is a time for the kids to put themselves forward. Filling out the application and participating in Children’s Congress can give T1D kids their own voice, a voice that they can use for the rest of their lives to advocate for themselves and others.
One Family’s Experience
I interviewed Hallie Addington and her daughter Avery about their experience at Children’s Congress. You can read “A Mother and Daughter’s Experience at the JDRF’s Children’s Congress” on Insulet’s website.
I hope that I didn’t sound like a Negative Nelly because that’s not my intention at all. I just wanted to be real about what it might be like for younger kids. I think it’s awesome that you and your T1D kiddo want to advocate (no matter their age).
I know you might be disappointed if your child isn’t accepted this time around. I wish that every single child with diabetes could experience Children’s Congress. But please know that just by applying you are advocating. Keep trying. Apply every single time you can.
Again, I am not part of the selection committee. These are my opinions based on our own experience.
Deadline to apply: November 30, 2018
JDRF CC Dates: July 8-10, 2019
Eligible Ages: 4-17
(E-mail and feed subscribers click over for embedded video.)