by Zine Instructor Shaun
“Public Policy is also about feeling,” Rueben Carlyle (D) on Youth Advocacy Day, February 10th, 2012
A few Fridays ago, Zine interns Justin, Javonna, and Demetrius and I got in my car and drove the 65 miles from Seattle to Olympia. We were going to join the Mockingbird Society and over 200 other homeless, street involved and/or foster care youth gathering at the capitol for this year’s Youth Advocacy Day.
Two hours later, we parked and made our way through the soggy grass to a leaky pavilion tent sheltering the day’s participants. We all wore scarves the color of orange caution signs—symbolizing youth visibility and the urgency of the cause.
That day the state’s House of Representatives would be voting on HB 2592—a bill furthering Washington state’s Extended Foster Care program. The program, funded by state and federal dollars, allows foster care youth to remain in care up until they are 21, so long as they are still working on their high school education. As an improvement, HB 2592 allots that foster care youth working on post secondary educations can also choose to remain in the foster care system until they are 21. This legislation hopes to improve on devastating statistics showing that only 2% of youth in foster care ever achieve a college education.
Governor Gregoire’s budget proposals were also of grave concern to those gathered as it proposes the following cuts:
- Funding eliminated to Street Youth Programs that provide outreach services to homeless youth. These services include referrals to housing programs.
- Funding eliminated to Family Reconciliation Services that help resolve conflict between 13-17 year old runaways and their families.
- 34% cut to Responsible Living Skills program, which, state-wide, provides 32 beds for minors seeking residential care. These 16-18 year olds would otherwise be homeless.
After a pump up rally detailing all of this, youth were sent to their regional representatives. Zine joined the Seattle troop and went to Representatives Eric Pettigrew of South Seattle and Jaime Pederson of the U-district. Both Reps were voting on the floor and so their aides took notes on our questions and concerns.
“If UDYC didn’t exist,” said Zine Intern Justin to Pederson’s aid. “I don’t know what relationships on the Ave would be like. It would be tumultuous….They (UDYC staff) are doing a fucking excellent job. For people doing drugs, they’re people to talk to and tell us there’s another way. All of them (Street Youth Programs) keep us alive in some sort of way.”
Javonna, one of our interns from South Seattle, told Pettigrew’s aid about the lack of services in that part of town. “A lot of people are really stuck. To get to work, I have to take an hour and a half bus to the U-district”, she said.
After our meetings, it was time to march. In a loop around the capitol, Ziners joined their other youth advocates in chanting “let it be known, we need a home”.
The march led us into the House Chamber, in which Representatives were making closing remarks for HB 2592.
Representative Roberts, one of the bill’s supporters, reminded her colleagues that the goal was to create a “safe and structured living environment” for foster care youth 21 and under to pursue college.
HB 2592 passed by a landslide—88 to 9.
We enjoyed a celebratory lunch and supporting Representatives stopped by to shake hands and encourage. HB 2592 still needs to make it through the Senate; and the Govenor’s budget still looms. But this year, as with every year, Youth Advocacy Day kindled civic interest in a host of young minds.
On the ride back, Zine Interns talked about their experience—a first for all three of them. They expressed amazement and a desire to get more involved in public process.