Pay It Forward
One of the ways I pay it forward is through my work as a Network Representative with The Mockingbird Society, a leadership team member of Youth Advocates Ending Homelessness (YAEH), and a voting member of The Office of Homeless Youth Advisory Committee. Since I’m no longer homeless or in foster care, many of the things I have worked to improve within both the systems of foster care and youth homelessness won’t impact me directly, but they will impact those in similar situations who come behind me.
This year alone we’ve had many bill and budget successes. We advocated for the successful passage of HB 1808 which improves opportunities and access to independence for youth in foster care. This new program will allow foster youth ages 15-21 access to driver’s licenses, permits and insurance to expand access to employment, education and extracurriculars. We made progress towards our goal of legal representation to all children and youth in foster care through advocating for a demonstration and evaluation of the impact of appointing attorneys to youth in care. And, we supported our partners at Columbia Legal Services to successfully advocate for continued funding for the Homeless Student Stability Program to prevent and end homelessness in schools.
Throughout my life I have been impacted by the work of those ahead of me. Bills enacted during my time in care allowed me to have opportunities that I would have missed out on. Bills such as the Prudent Parent Standard (SB 6479), a bill that allows foster parents to make decisions related to normal childhood activities; Extended Foster Care which allows many youth to stay in care until the age of 21; and Extending Medicaid to Foster Youth to Age 21 (HB 1201), which allowed foster youth to have Medicaid to 21. (Today, thanks to the federal Affordable Care Act, youth in care have access to Medicaid until age 26.)
Just knowing that I might be able to help someone else like me have a better experience, even if I don’t directly benefit from it, is a good enough reason to pay it forward.