Jim Theofelis’s vision when he founded The Mockingbird Society — to create a world-class foster care system — has come closer to reality over the course of his time as Executive Director. He, along with many staff and countless youth, has taken that dream and created an entity to combat the issues that foster youth face. Over time the organization has grown and evolved to take on the responsibility of advocating for youth and young adults who experience homelessness as well as the rights of foster youth.
One of the factors that drives our organization is the mission we all stand behind: to build better systems of care for at-risk youth. That mission came directly from the experiences that Jim had during his interactions with young people over the years. Through that mission, a platform was born to elevate youth voices to change the child welfare and youth homeless systems through advocacy and based on the personal experiences of youth.
To celebrate Jim’s accomplishments and honor his leadership, staff were asked to respond to the question: “How has Jim demonstrated outstanding advocacy or inspired you to be a better advocate?” Mixed among historic photos from the Mockingbird archives are their responses:
Mandy Urwiler, Senior Network Representative
Honestly, there are so many times that Jim has inspired me to be a better advocate that I can’t pick a single one. Every time I hear Jim talk about the reason we are here — that five-year old who doesn’t know she will be in care tomorrow — I am inspired to work to be a better and better advocate because I think of a child my son’s age. I need to help make the system a place where that five-year-old can grow up in a safe home with a loving family, instead of growing up in a system getting shunted from home to home.
Erin Hatheway, Public Policy and Communications Coordinator
Since my first day at Mockingbird, I have felt wholeheartedly impressed by Jim’s ability to convey clear, direct advocacy messages at the right time, to the right people, and in the right way so that they feel inspired to take action. The standard that he sets will be a continual source of inspiration to me throughout my career!
Violet Banks, Network Representative
Jim has such a welcoming atmosphere that it inspires me to be engaging and not underestimate myself. Thank you, Jim!
Degale Cooper, Director of Family Programs
My passion for the Mockingbird Family Model has been inspired by Jim’s vision for this model. Because of this, I get the opportunity to perfectly align my core life values with my work passion.
Montrai Williams, Former Senior Network Representative
Jim inspires me every day to be a better advocate, not only because he has dedicated his life to helping youth in foster care and those who struggle with youth and young adult homelessness, but also because he is humble and he fights for what he believes.
Courtney Millan, Engagement Specialist Coordinator
Jim is the true definition of someone who “leads by example.” When he says he believes in young people and wants to change the system, he demonstrates that commitment every day. He stands side by side with young people, truly listening to their thoughts and opinions and welcomes them to have a real seat at the table. Through his leadership, Jim has inspired and challenged me to trust my instincts and to move toward an issue when I sense something is not quite right, rather than shy away. This piece of advice has helped me to become a better advocate with Mockingbird and in my community.