In its advocacy role, the Alliance initiates, promotes, and sponsors programs enabling YMCAs to provide youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility programs to their communities. We diligently monitor legislative and regulatory issues, as well as educate and advocate to policymakers concerning community services YMCAs provide. The Alliance has been involved in several key issues at the state level directly impacting YMCAs. The Alliance worked with legislators and interested parties on concussion prevention, swimming pool inspection, and early childhood and school age legislation to ensure YMCAs were protected and supported.
We are YMCAs’ statewide voice. With that responsibility, and in our work, we strive to uphold the four core YMCA values of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility.
The Alliance remains flexible enough to address matters when warranted. If you are interested in partnering with the Indiana Alliance of YMCAs on advocacy efforts promoting Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility, please contact us.
Priority 1 - Water Safety (Healthy Living)
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites drownings as the cause of more deaths among children ages 1-4 than any other cause, except birth defects. Among youths ages 1 to 14, fatal drowning remains the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death behind motor vehicle crashes. Further, accidental drowning is a leading cause of death among African-American youth.
A study conducted by Meyers, Cuesta & Lai (2017) links decreased drowning rates to the labor market for lifeguards, drawing from annual data as far back as from 1972 until present on lifeguard employment rates and drowning rates by race, gender and ethnicity.” Unfortunately, there is currently a worldwide shortage of lifeguards, and Indiana has not escaped the downward trend. Like municipal pools, community centers and local Ys have felt the sting of the shortage, as they’ve had to reduce pool hours and eliminate pool days.
School districts play an important role in addressing the shortage by granting high school Physical Education credit for lifeguard training. Currently, credit can be granted for school-facilitated training. Noting that not every school may have the resources or facilities to accommodate such training, the Y is advocating availability of the credit for training provided offsite and/or by certified trainers representing third party organizations contracted with the school district. In such a scenario, school's community partners can provide a vital resource.
As the Y explores the possibility, we are working to ensure that we:
- Identify whether a significant reason for the lifeguard shortage in Indiana is due to the lack of training opportunities (vs. cost of training, low pay, lack of interest among teens, etc);
- Determine whether any Y-proposed strategy would actually meaningfully address the problem;
- Understand the degree to which lifeguard vacancies are due to candidates' preferences to work closer to their homes or in higher income communities. They may not desire working in nearby urban areas where school districts may not be offering lifeguard training as a PE elective.
- Explore whether school districts serving lower-income areas would be willing to enter into agreements with their YMCAs to allow students to get credit for taking lifeguard classes.
The idea here is that we need to do our due diligence to make sure we are prescribing an applicable remedy for a duly diagnosed problem.
 Wiltse J. Contested waters: A social history of swimming pools in America. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press; 2007.
 Myers, S. L., Jr, Cuesta, A. M., & Lai, Y. (2017). Competitive Swimming and Racial Disparities in Drowning. The Review of Black political economy, 44(1-2), 77–97. doi:10.1007/s12114-017-9248-y
Priority 2 - Early Childhood Care (Youth Development)
Research finds that 85% of the brain is developed by age 5. Indiana has increased requirements for certain childcare programs and expanded pre-K access; yet, much work remains. All Hoosier children should have access to consistent, high-quality and affordable learning opportunities. The Alliance advocates for:
- Increasing capacity of quality childcare slots through state funding to supplement Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) and increased quality and capacity building activities
- Expanding high-quality pre-kindergarten through publicly funded pre-K options that are evidence based, age-appropriate and available in both school- and community-based settings
- Updating and implementing a standardized assessment tool for kindergarten readiness
Priority 3 - Out-of-School Time Learning (Youth Development)
School-age kids spend 80 percent of their waking hours outside of school. Afterschool and summer learning programs provide transformative learning experiences in unique settings that help young people discover what they love to do and reach their full potential.
As one of the largest providers of before- and after-school care in Indiana, the YMCA offers nourishing learning environments that promote exploration and knowledge-building through our Before & After School programs. As a leader in youth development, the Y understands the importance of providing Hoosier youth with a balance of academically rich activities as well as an enhanced focus on overall physical well-being. In addition to working side-by-side with industry experts and school districts to design experiences that help our children learn, grow and thrive, the Y advocates for increased access to consistent, high-quality and affordable out-of-school time (OST) learning opportunities through:
- Public funding for high quality programs that are evidence-based
- Increased funding for OST programs to support innovation and capacity building
- Informing policy development aimed at regulating the OST field
This important work was recently interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which highlighted a shortcoming in the Indiana Code in relation to the provision of full day school-age care if public health emergencies drive schools to go virtual. Current exemptions for legally license-exempt childcare programs provide an avenue for full-day school-age care only during the summer and during the school year when school is not in session. In the event of a public health emergency during which schools offer virtual instruction, many Hoosier families who don’t have a work-from-home option are forced to choose between working to support their families and staying home to facilitate e-learning. Unfortunately, they cannot rely on many of their out-of-school time providers that offered services during the summer and school vacation days, as the providers have no legal path to quickly respond to the emergency need. The Alliance is seeking to remedy the challenge by advocating for a waiver for child care programs operated during a public health emergency by a public or private organization under a contract with a public or private school; and that serves children who are enrolled in grades kindergarten through 12 and attending school via remote or e-learning due to the public health emergency.
Priority 4 - Civic Engagement & Education (Social Responsibility)
Around the state, YMCAs are improving their boards’ abilities to tell their Y stories within their communities, to policymakers, and beyond. In short, to advocate. The Alliance works through local YMCA CEOs and Boards to identify Advocacy Champions, who champion this process with their respective boards. In partnering with Champions in elevating advocacy as an important function of each board, the Alliance is leveraging the Y’s collective voice to speak about the impact we have in our communities and how proposed policy changes can affect our ability to have an impact.
The Alliance will work to increase the number or Advocacy Champions and engage them in meaningful advocacy experiences.
Indiana YMCA Youth and Government
Since 1965, Indiana’s YMCAs have helped Hoosier youth develop personal growth and engage in life-long, responsible citizenship through the Youth and Government program.
The Youth and Government Program is an experiential learning civic engagement program that uses mock government as a vehicle for teaching Hoosier 7th through 12th graders about democracy. The program develops youth who will be better citizens now by being both knowledgeable and active in determining the future of our democracy.
Youth and Government develops and promotes:
- an understanding of local, state, national, and international concerns,
- research, study and debate on public issues,
- exploration of careers in public service,
- interaction with adult and youth leaders involved in decision-making processes,
- an understanding of political systems and the forum they provide for the effective and peaceful resolution of issues and concerns,
- appreciation for the diversity of viewpoints on public issues and a concurrent respect for ideas, beliefs and the positions of others, and
- demonstration of citizenship responsibilities and leadership roles essential to the health of participatory democracy.
Throughout 2021, Alliance advocacy efforts will aim to raise awareness of the program among the Indiana legislature and promote youth civic education and engagement around the state.