2004: The Mockingbird Society led advocacy efforts to allow youth to seal juvenile records that prevented them from obtaining employment or housing, as well as making sure that companies are not able to sell the records of youth for profit.
2005: We successfully advocated for legislation that ensured the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) would prioritize the severity of CPS referrals, as opposed to the age of the victims.
2006: A pilot program called Foster Care to 21 began, allowing up to 50 youth per year for three years to remain in foster care from 18 to 21 if they were attending post-secondary education, finishing in high school, or getting their GED.
2007: This was a very successful year! We supported two very important pieces of legislation that year. The first was to extend Medicaid to youth exiting foster care until age 21. This legislation ensures that youth can remain healthy without racking up hospital bills. The second was to create the Independent Youth Housing Programs (IYHP), so that vouchers are readily available to youth aging out of foster care, helping them to obtain stable housing.
2008: Congress created the Fostering Connections Act, and states could opt in to allow foster youth to stay in care until age 21 if they fell into one of five categories: in high school or getting their GED, in a post-secondary education program, in a program to reduce barriers to employment, working 80 or more hours per month, or having documented medical conditions preventing them from falling into another category. The Fostering Connections Act also incentivized states by offering a 50 percent match in funds put toward Extended Foster Care.
2010: We helped push legislation that expanded the sealing of juvenile records. Another big accomplishment was the establishment of subsidized guardianship. This allows families who take on the responsibilities of Kinship Care to obtain financial assistance.
2011: Washington approved Extended Foster Care for youth obtaining a GED or high school diploma so they are not shuffled out of foster care into homelessness on their 18th birthday. We also pushed for unannounced visits in foster homes. This made sure that a random selection of 10 percent of all youth in foster care would have an unannounced home visit on an annual basis. Doing so helps increase safety for youth in care by not allowing foster parents to cover up abuse and neglect if it is happening.
2012: We helped introduce the idea of Responsible Living Skills Programs (RLSPs). These programs provide assistance to youth at risk of becoming homeless. The program provides services such as long term housing, education and life skills training. We also expanded Extended Foster Care to allow youth attending an approved post-secondary educational institution to stay in care until age 21.
2013: We brought forth another category for Extended Foster Care that allows youth breaking down barriers to employment to remain in care until age 21 and created a new part of Extended Foster Care that allows youth to live in an approved independent living situation while giving them extra financial and personal support.
2014: We introduced a new category within Extended Foster Care that allows youth working 80 or more hours a month to remain in care.
While many people in our community are sad to see Jim Theofelis step away from the helm of The Mockingbird Society, we are also excited to see where our new leadership will take us. Jim has displayed leadership that will impact us for an eternity, and we hope that we can continue to live up to his legacy.