Across the state, advocates from The Mockingbird Society work tirelessly to bring attention to the challenges young people experiencing foster care and homelessness face. No event is more indicative of this monumental effort than our annual Youth Advocacy Day. This year, over 300 young people and allies met at the state capitol to advocate for Mockingbird’s priorities. These priorities were developed by young people in Mockingbird’s seven statewide Chapters.
We gathered in the morning and heard speeches from Chapter members and staff about these legislative priorities, and why they matter. We also heard from Mockingbird’s Executive Director, Annie Blackledge, and Secretary Ross Hunter from the Department of Children, Youth, and Families about how important youth advocacy is.
After our morning assembly, we split into groups to speak to over 50 legislators in the house and senate. Some groups spoke about the need to reduce barriers to getting identification for youth experiencing homelessness, a priority called ID’s with Ease. Many spoke to policymakers about increasing long-term housing options for minors experiencing homelessness, as Washington state currently has no longterm housing options for minors. All of our advocates were passionate, creative, and driven, and it showed in their speeches and in their dedication.
Of course, no Youth Advocacy Day is without its challenges. Last year, it was snow. This year, it was a misty, drizzling rain that soaked everything and everyone in mere minutes. As we braved the weather on the Capitol steps, a few Legislators spoke to the group about the impact of youth voice and encouraged the group to continue to fight to change the system.
Despite the weather, our dedication prevailed, and we marched back to the United Churches of Olympia, chanting slogans like “Without ID, There Is No Me!” and “More Support, Less Court!” We were treated to an amazing musical performance by The Bridge Music Project, an organization that mentors youth in songwriting and self-expression through music.
The overall mood was positive as we packed up and got ready to head back to our respective corners of the state. We laughed, joked, and chatted optimistically about the year ahead.
“I was really impressed by the genuine authenticity of the speakers,” said Beth Harvey, Director of Finance & Administration at The Mockingbird Society. “Especially Annie, when she was speaking about how personal the mission is to her.”
It was clear that no matter what they took away from it, this year’s Youth Advocacy Day left a big impression on everyone involved. As we gear up for the year ahead, we hope our advocates will keep this year’s message of hope and determination at the forefront.