Color Youth Advocacy Day 349.Annie

“What if you’ve moved
placements multiple times
with only a moment’s
notice to gather your
belongings? What happens
when your birth name
and your chosen name
don’t match? All these
documents can be
reissued or changed,
but at a cost. Often this cost,
both in terms of time and
money, makes it unobtainable
for most youth aging
out of care or
experiencing homelessness.”

 

Dear Friends: The Annual Youth and Alumni Leadership Summit represents youth-driven advocacy in its truest form. Youth leaders from across the state come together to reimagine and reform Washington state’s child welfare system. Over two days, they speak directly to systems leaders about issues they know firsthand — CPS removals from home, a lack of reflective foster homes, and overburdened social workers. While much progress is being made in the child welfare sector, our youth leaders know firsthand there is still much work to be done. They come together to work in partnership with The Office of Homeless Youth, the Supreme Court Commission on Children in Foster Care, and the Department of Children, Youth, and Families to develop actionable solutions to these issues.

Our Spokane chapter recognizes that someone experiencing housing instability faces an uphill battle when trying to obtain the documents needed to secure housing and social security. This will soon be made more difficult in 2020 when Washington state requires a federally recognized “real I.D.” in order to travel by plane. This not only means an increased cost, but the need to have birth certificate, social security card, and several other identifying documents in your possession. What if you’ve moved placements multiple times with only a moment’s notice to gather your belongings? What happens when your birth name and your chosen name don’t match? All these documents can be reissued or changed, but at a cost. Often this cost, both in terms of time and money, makes it unobtainable for most youth aging out of care or experiencing homelessness. The Spokane chapter has chosen to focus on working with the state legislature to ensure youth experiencing foster care or homelessness receive more support to get the identification they need to fully participate in everyday life.

This is just one example of the innovation that is possible when the policy is informed by those with lived experience. Across the state, young people are re-imagining a system where foster parents are better trained and better supported. A system where caseworkers understand the impact a youth’s file can have on their future, so they can be more intentional about what’s included. A system where Extended Foster Care is available to more young people, which provides a safety net so young people can take chances and explore their future like their stably housed peers. Mockingbird advocates envision a system where master leasing helps youth with no rental history to secure housing, so they are able to focus on their education, work, and family. And as always, a system where youth voice is the number one consideration for all program and policy decisions.

At the Mockingbird Society, systems reform and youth voice are forever intertwined. Congratulations to our youth advocates for their efforts to create a system that supports families and young people. Their work helps to provide youth with skills and resources and makes sure that foster parents and caseworkers have the supports they need to ensure every youth, regardless of background, has every opportunity to thrive.

annie blackledge sig

Annie Blackledge
Executive Director

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