Take a Trip with North Carolina’s SaySo, Inc.
FYA is honored to introduce you to SaySo, Inc. (Strong Able Youth Speaking Out) of North Carolina, a statewide association of current and former foster youth with an all-youth board of directors and local chapters across NC. FYA had a chance to check in with Carmelita Coleman, SaySo’s Executive Director, about all the powerful work underway, and got the scoop on the statewide activism and the equally important community building and educational work led by local SaySo chapters.
Organizing Town Halls around recently passed legislation – Like many FYA partners around the country, a big project over the past few years has been work at the state level to ensure the effective implementation of the Federal Strengthening Families Act, which relaxed restrictions on foster parents to promote opportunities for foster youth to engage in “normal” activities like sleepovers and sports — activities which often required social worker approval and lots of other paperwork. SaySo youth leaders, once they worked with state legislators to pass state legislation to allow the Federal law to come into effect, realized that nothing would change if they didn’t strategically educate foster youth and foster parents about the provisions. With creativity and ambition, SaySo organized town halls in six regions around the state, attracting up to 75 youth and foster parents at each of the town halls – to get educated, ask questions and learn more about the promise of this new state law. Carmelita explained how SaySo youth organizers refused to rely on tired powerpoint presentations, employing skits and role plays instead, which gave attendees important opportunities to practice how to talk to foster parents about these changes. As a result, a growing number of foster youth and foster parents are taking advantage of the benefits and opportunities afforded by this new state and federal legislation.
Fighting for transportation rights – Carmelita brought me up to speed about about TRIP – a new statewide initiative pushed by SaySo to help foster youth get driver’s licenses and afford car insurance. I was blown away by the name SaySo created for this new statewide initiative (TRIP – Transportation is Really Possible) but what’s really important is the $$ that is now set aside so that foster youth can actually get insurance that allows them to drive. North Carolina is a big state, and much of it rural so cars are not some luxury item — they are an absolute necessity for older youth in care to keep a job, pursue higher ed, and see family. SaySo is holding tight for January, when TRIP takes effect and they can finally see the benefits that have come from their hard work.
On the horizon – SaySo is planning a rally at the Capitol in Rally in 2018, and working on to helping local chapters increase their local organizing work. Carmelita explained how committed SaySo was to expanding local organizing through their many county based chapters, believing that local action is the core of youth empowerment. FYA agrees!