TNOYS at the Texas Capitol: January/ February Highlights During the 88th Texas Legislative Session


The 88th Texas Legislative Session kicked off January 10, marking an exciting start to the year! Over the next several months, TNOYS staff, members, and youth and young adult (YYA) partners will come together to advocate for positive change across seven systems: child welfare, housing and homelessness services, justice, survivor services, health and behavioral health, education, and workforce/ higher education. Below are some highlights from our work:

TNOYS Outlines 15 Policy Priorities to Address Years of Underfunding and Challenges from the COVID-19 Pandemic

TNOYS recently released a Cross-Systems, Youth Focused Policy Agenda that will guide our work this session. We’re proud to champion an agenda that was shaped thanks to input over 160 by youth, young adults, and providers who joined us for listening sessions.

Priorities this session focus on prevention and early intervention, better support for those who do become systems-involved, and stronger resources for young people transitioning out of systems and into adulthood.

Youth, Young Adults, and TNOYS Members Testify at the Texas Capitol

TNOYS is grateful to the young people and providers who have so far joined us for hearings on SB1 (the state budget). Below is a recap of just three of the hearings that members, youth, and young adults have joined us for:

Speaking Out for Student Mental Health

On Monday, February 6, TNOYS YALC Member Marlayna Gallegos joined Director of Public Policy Lauren Rose to testify before the Senate Committee on Finance. 

Lauren began with an ask to support dedicated funding for student mental health in schools, citing the many TNOYS providers who explained that “{the youth in their care} needed to understand how to support their own mental health earlier, and how to regulate their own mental health earlier.” Later in the hearing, Marlayna spoke powerfully about her own experience with mental health challenges while in foster care, and the critical role of schools in the mental well-being of systems-impacted YYA. As Marlayna explained, “I believe with funding, schools could educate students how to protect their own mental well being. People that possess strong emotional support are less likely to turn to drugs, self-harm, or suicide.”

Advocating for Youth and Young Adults Experiencing Homelessness

Next, TNOYS staff, youth partners, and members joined a separate hearing to advocate for investments in youth and young adults experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. 

TNOYS Director of Public Policy Lauren Rose urged legislators to support the creation of a new grant program that would better allow communities across the state to connect youth experiencing homelessness with stable housing. TNOYS YALC member Ronald Smith spoke movingly about his own experience after aging out of foster care, saying “the first time I experienced homelessness was at age 19 while in school and working…I had to put all my goals on hold until I had a place to lay my head consistently.”

Representatives from TNOYS members LifeWorks and Montrose Grace Place also joined to discuss how greater funding can help providers be more effective, meet staffing needs, and offer critical wraparound services like case management and mental health support. As LifeWorks CEO Susan McDowell explained, “the goal is healing, and it is self-sufficiency”.

Supporting Youth Impacted by or At-Risk of Foster Care Involvement

Later, Lauren and Ronald advocated for prevention and early intervention services— particularly Family and Youth Success (FAYS) and Community Youth Development programs— that are proven to prevent juvenile justice or foster care involvement. Lauren also expressed support for drawing down Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) funds, as well as Foster Care Rate Modernization to increase capacity for the highest-needs youth.

Finally, Lauren made the case for increasing funds to Preparation for Adult Living (PAL), especially in light of recent cuts to the program. Ronald echoed this, saying, “PAL has been instrumental in providing me with resources and supports…with increased funding, DPS and PAL will be able to provide youth with more opportunities to be successful, feel a sense of normalcy, and most importantly have stability and safety in foster care placements.”

We’re also grateful to Richard Singleton and Kimberley Lowe from STARRY (a longstanding FAYS provider in TNOYS’ network), who joined to testify in support of prevention and early intervention services.

Looking Ahead to TNOYS Day of Action for Youth on Monday, March 6

TNOYS’ flagship event of the Legislative Session will be Day of Action for Youth on Monday, March 6 at the Texas Capitol. DAY will be a chance to put youth-adult partnership into action as youth, young adults, and providers from across systems and around the state will come together to advocate for change.  We look forward to seeing everyone who will be joining us!

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