“Youth Advocacy Day
is the culmination
of a years’ worth of preparation
and effort. Every year
hundreds of young people
and their allies from across
the state gather in Olympia
to advocate for policies that
tackle the most pressing issues
facing their peers.”
2020 marks The Mockingbird Society’s 20th anniversary, a significant milestone for the agency and for the countless youth advocates who have been involved. In the past 20 years, Mockingbird youth leaders have won over 30 major policy reforms, each getting us one step closer to transforming foster care and ending youth homelessness. Youth Advocacy Day is the culmination of a years’ worth of preparation and effort. Every year hundreds of young people and their allies from across the state gather in Olympia to advocate for policies that tackle the most pressing issues facing their peers. They spend the day gathering in community, each as individuals with their own stories and their own reasons for coming. They then join together to meet with their legislators and raise a unified voice for change.
For many young people, Youth Advocacy Day provides an opportunity to have those in power not only listen to their concerns, but also to act on their recommendations. This is in contrast with the typical experience of foster care or homelessness — one in which you have little control over your circumstances. At Youth Advocacy Day, youth have agency over their world, and that agency can open new pathways in their futures.
So often experiencing the instability of foster care and homelessness can be incredibly isolating. Many young people have shared that Youth Advocacy Day is the first time they’ve had the opportunity to see that many other young people share their experience. This year, one young woman shared that Youth Advocacy Day made her feel like she was no longer alone.
While very few of these young people will experience the benefits of the policies they fight for, their drive to transform foster care and end youth homelessness has led to improved circumstances for thousands of children and young people who will come after them. Many of their policy wins have also influenced national policy, including Extended Foster Care and medical coverage for youth in care past the age of 18. While it’s true that these policy wins are incredible, they are only part of the power of the work of The Mockingbird Society.
In the past 20 years, thousands of youth advocates have drawn strength and courage from one another, in an effort to pave the way for generations of children and youth that will experience the system after them. It is this community and collective effort that makes their work powerful and incredibly effective. The Mockingbird Society’s past 20 years demonstrate the impact that collective action can have, when passionate individuals join together over shared experience and work to create lasting change. It is this work that makes Mockingbird unique. I look forward to seeing what our youth advocates will achieve in the next 20 years.