The Mockingbird Society, an advocacy organization that is devoted giving a voice and support to youth experiencing foster care and/or homelessness, ventured to Olympia to advocate for youth rights. The Mockingbird Society kicked off the event by introducing the numerous groups that had travelled from all over the state to rally. The mix of people gathered in one room was incredible; youth currently in foster care, foster care alumni, and youth fighting homelessness; multiple Youth advocacy agencies like Treehouse and YMCA; college students, current foster parents and engaged community members all joining together to advocate for youth rights.
After the kick off ceremony we split into groups and marched over to the capital, with the mission to inform our senators of three very important bills currently be considered:
- End Youth Detention: Eliminate the use of detention for status offenses like truancy and running away. Expand alternatives to detention statewide. Senate Bill 5596 (Sen. Darneille)
- Expand Access to Higher Education: Expand eligibility for Passport to College Promise Scholarship to include tribal youth, refugee minors in foster care, and youth placed in WA from other states. Senate Bill 6274 (Sen. Ranker) and House Bill 2832 (Rep. Kilduff)
- Strengthen Extended Foster Care: Allow youth to enroll up to age 21, to enter and exit the program as needed due to life circumstances, and ensure youth who are state dependent at age 18 and meet one of the five eligibility categories can enroll. House Bill 2330 (Rep. Fey) and Senate Bill 6222 (Sen. Carlyle)
To give you an idea of how many advocates and youth had gathered, we had 47 groups of 8 to 10, that’s over 400 voices heard! Each group had the opportunity to meet with 2 senators or their assistants. We then divided roles within the group and practiced our speeches and stories. Two of the women in our group were foster care alumni and they spoke to their personal stories and how if these bills would have been put into place they would’ve had a huge impact on their futures. The senators were very receptive and respectful to what we had to say. Our meetings were successful, both senators said we could count on their support for all three initiatives!
After our meetings we met up on the steps of capital to make our voices heard. Chants ringing out from crowd:
Give Us Attention, Not Detention!
Education for Every Nation!
Let Us Be In EFC! (Extended Foster Care)
Stay tuned for updates from The Mockingbird Society!