Members of the Yakima Chapter pose for a picture at last year’s Youth Advocacy Day (YAD). [Photo: Jerry Davis Photography]
On January 29, 2016 The Mockingbird Society will host our annual Youth Advocacy Day. On this day each year, all of our participants and allies come together in Olympia to rally and support the policy proposals the Mockingbird Youth Network and Youth Advocates Ending Homelessness came up with over the past year. It is a very important, very exciting day. I hope anyone who can attend, will attend.
Last year was a very important year in regards to our advocacy agenda. We secured all of our priority issues, including our legacy issue of finalizing Extended Foster Care by expanding it to include the last population, which is youth with major medical conditions. Extended Foster Care now helps support safe and secure transitions into adulthood for all youth who would have otherwise aged out of care at 18. We helped establish the Office of Homeless Youth Prevention and Protection to ensure state level responsibility for youth and young adult homelessness. We helped pass House Bill 1932, which requires a second opinion review from a psychiatric expert before approving a prescription for more than a 30-day supply of antipsychotic medication to youth in foster care. Finally, we helped advance the YEAR Act, which creates common-sense protections for youth with juvenile records so they can help contribute to society instead of become further marginalized.
Last year was also the first YAD with Paula Carvalho, Mockingbird’s Network Coordinator, running the event. With her amazing coordination and hard work, the day was a gigantic success.
This year we will again face some challenges involving our legislative agenda because of tight budgets. Our priority activities include: increased funding for HOPE centers and street youth services so youth under 18 can access a HOPE bed in or near their home communities, funding a formal evaluation on the Mockingbird Family Model to be conducted in early 2017 by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, and making it possible for under 18 homeless youth to consent to provide data in the Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS).
Last year was the first Youth Advocacy Day I attended as staff, and I was amazed by how much effort goes into it. Along with prepping to speak and making scarves, posters, and other materials, I also attended a conference on youth homelessness in San Diego the week before; needless to say I was pretty busy. All in all, the day turned out to be a blast. It seemed like everyone had fun, and best of all, every single one of our priority activities were eventually successful! The most thrilling part of the day was our march through the capital. Shouting, chanting and uniting everyone as one brought a very galvanizing energy, the kind of energy that makes you want to make and see change in our community.
I encourage anybody interested to register to be part of YAD. It’s fun, empowering and you can make a huge difference in improving Washington’s foster care systems and helping to end youth homelessness. Attend, and help ensure every child in Washington is able to have a safe and stable home with a loving family.