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My name is Mandy Urwiler, and I am a Senior Youth Network Representative at The Mockingbird Society.mandy2012 1

Being a part of the Mockingbird Youth Network (MYN) team means that I not only contribute to the Mockingbird Times and the Mockingbird Blog, but I also get to be on the front lines of changing the child welfare system for the better.

Policy workgroups are one way we are a part of this change, and I am proud to be a part of two of them. One is the Normalcy Workgroup, which was inspired by the MYN's Tacoma Chapter Youth at the 2011 Foster Youth and Alumni Leadership Summit. This workgroup was commissioned by the Washington State Supreme Court Commission on Children in Foster Care, with the goal of ensuring all youth in care can have similar life experiences as youth in healthy families. To date, the Normalcy Workgroup has made huge strides towards that end. First of all, we have drafted a myth-busting fact sheet aimed at reducing misunderstandings that prevent normal childhood experiences. This is part of a broader effort to revise trainings for social workers and caregivers so greater emphasis can be placed on promoting these experiences.

Another important workgroup is the Pregnant and Parenting Youth Workgroup, which was brought about by the Olympia chapter at the 2011 Youth and Alumni Leadership Summit. The youth raised concerns that pregnant and parenting youth in care either don't have enough rights, or don't know their rights, and neither do the adults working with them. Because of this, Children's Administration created a workgroup to fix that problem. Now, they are in the midst of creating new guide books for teen parents and those who work with them to make sure all rights of teen parents are known and respected by those who work with them.

We will keep you posted on the continued progress of this important work.Thank you to those who have worked hard on all of the workgroups we are a part of and thank you for helping to build a world-class foster care system.