Towards Trust and Transformation: Jade's Journey
Posted on April 05, 2019
Jade was one of dozens of current and former foster youth across Oregon who gathered in Salem, the state capitol, over three days in January 2019 to get organized to improve the state’s foster care system. Convened by Oregon Foster Youth Connection, a group FYA helped start up in 2008 and supports to this day, Jade and the other young people were there to push for increased investment in the state’s underfunded independent living services. Most young people rely on a network of family and community supports to help them transition to independence. Foster youth don’t get the opportunity to access supports in this way and rely on independent living services to help them make the difficult transitions to adulthood. These supports make a real different for foster youth, but only if there’s enough funding.
Jade knew from personal experience how important these transitional services were to her, but didn’t see how her experience was relevant to making policy change. Shy, quiet, and uncertain about what she could offer, Jade stood back initially, watching and listening from the outside. Thanks to strong leadership by youth facilitators and staff supported by FYA, she began to step forward. Eddye -- an FYA trainer -- worked with her to open up, understand how her story fit with the change that was needed, and trust her voice. Eddye’s thoughtful, targeted, methodical approach, grounded in a deep respect for Jade and a belief in what she could contribute, allowed Jade to tell a powerful story.
Before she knew it, Jade was speaking passionately and confidently about the importance of more independent living services with elected officials around the state, linking her successful experience with her own independent living worker to the need to ensure others had the same access to quality supports. We constantly hear from young folks like Jade how this experience -- the chance to be heard, to have agency, to be believed and respected -- is so transformational. As Jade describes it;
When everyone wanted to hear what I had to say it felt amazing. It made me feel so important to this world and that I have a pretty amazing voice everyone wants to listen to. At first I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t feel like anyone wanted to hear me and no one cared because that’s how I’ve lived most of my life. But I took that first step and I’m still sharing my voice to this day for youths!
When young people identify issues they care about, and are effectively supported to bring these issues to decision makers, change can truly happen. With the direct advocacy of young people like Jade, Oregon’s legislators are sitting up and taking note. Just recently, Jade and her fellow leaders from Oregon Foster Youth Connection held a public hearing in the Oregon Senate’s Human Service Committee about their proposed legislation, secured passage of this legislation out of committee on April 2nd, and is following it closely as it moves to the Senate’s Joint Committee on Ways & Means. If successful, this legislation will more than triple the resources available to support ILP across the state.
For Jade, this legislation is deeply personal. She continues to organize because she knows that this legislation would:"[open] up so many opportunities for other youth, and I love being a part of something that is making them feel worth so much!"
Foster Youth in Action is a key partner, trainer and ally to thousands of young people like Jade in more than twenty five grassroots groups across the US and Canada. Through actions large and small, FYA supports young leaders and their groups change the system as they gain powerful opportunities, skills, and experiences that they can use in college, career, and life.
To see a video about the Advocacy Conference in which Jade was a participant, go here.