RALEIGH, NC — John S. Niblock, who is retiring as floral editor and floral sales manager of The Produce News, was among those honored at a celebration of the 30th anniversary of a statewide child advocacy group he founded here in 1983.
About 250 attended the Nov. 6 reception at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, according to Deborah Bryan, current president and chief executive officer of the group.
Niblock had served for two terms as executive director of the Governor’s Advocacy Council on Children and Youth, appointed by the governor, prior to founding the independent North Carolina Child Advocacy Institute, now called Action for Children, North Carolina. He led successful institute campaigns for a statewide early childhood program and a child fatality review commission and against corporal punishment in schools and child care centers, among other issues.
The new organization had four key, interrelated strategies: data-gathering, public awareness, community organizing and lobbying (mainly of the state legislature). The institute conducted about 50 county State of the Child conferences, daylong events cosponsored by the institute and local groups, with citizens and local agency heads examining data on children in their counties. Each conference produced action steps for improvements.
The institute also held candidate forums throughout the state where candidates addressed children’s issues and staged an annual legislative lobbying day that drew about 300 citizens from county child advocacy groups across the state. In 1995, it produced an hourlong, statewide, prime-time television special, “Children’s Summit,” with a keynote address by the governor.
In 1986, the institute was first to issue a state-level annual statistical report on children and families, called The North Carolina Children’s Index. A similar report called Kids Count debuted nationwide in 1990, with reports for each state, and continues to this day. The institute also conducted studies and issued recommendations on foster care, child abuse and neglect, teen pregnancy, chronically ill children, child fatalities and corporal punishment, among others.
Niblock was named one of the top 25 of about 300 lobbyists in the state legislature by the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research, based on voting by legislators, lobbyists and news media covering the legislature. He also won the Friend of Children award from a family services association and the North Carolina Order of the Long Leaf Pine from Gov. Jim Hunt. He retired at year’s end as editor and sales manager of the Floral Marketing section in The Produce News.
Also recgnized Nov. 6 was Linda Garrou of Winston-Salem, NC, a former school teacher and first board chairman of the institute, who went on to serve seven terms in the North Carolina State Senate.
A number of other children’s advocates from around the state were also honored.