March was packed with wide ranging opportunities to have our voices heard in policy change, both in Texas and at the national level! We’re grateful to the youth, young adults, and providers who joined to advocate for the priorities in TNOYS’ agenda for the 88th Texas Legislative Session. Below are some highlights from our work:
Bringing Energy and Action to the Texas Capitol for TNOYS DAY
On March 6th, TNOYS hosted our flagship event of the Legislative Session: Day of Action for Youth (DAY) at the Texas Capitol. With 200+ youth and providers in attendance, the day was a testament to the power of youth-adult partnership in advocacy!
After a morning overview of our 15 policy priorities, we set off for the Capitol grounds for an energizing rally. From preventing youth homelessness, to strengthening the child welfare system, to the need for mental health supports in schools, members of our YALC (Young Adult Leadership Council) and the TELB (Texas Emerging Leader Board) spoke on the critical challenges that youth and young adults face across the state. After concluding the rally, attendees met with their respective representatives to discuss these pertinent topics more in depth.
The day was a great example of how TNOYS puts the voices of youth and young adults at the forefront of change. As Texas Emerging Leaders Board member Pablo Pratt explained:
“I really enjoyed TNOYS DAY because it reminded me of the power of collective action. Seeing over 200+ people come together for a rally and then go on to meet with legislators to advocate for important issues was truly inspiring. It demonstrated that when we work together, we can make a real difference in our communities and in the world.”
Testimony highlights: Decriminalizing runaways, supporting prevention funding, preventing justice involvement for youth in care, and much more.
Youth-serving providers, TNOYS staff, and young adults continued to make their voices heard during testimony to support critical legislation. Highlights include work by TNOYS Director of Public Policy Lauren Rose to protect and expand funding for Family and Youth Success (FAYS), a highly successful program that has been proven to safely prevent youth systems-involvement.
Later in the month, TNOYS YALC member Chaz Davis gave a powerful testimony before the Juvenile Justice and Family Issues Committee to support legislation that will decriminalize the act of running away. Chaz spoke movingly about the maltreatment he faced in foster care placements and how he felt that running away was a way to feel in control of his life and gain a sense of safety.
In the last week of March, YALC member Ronald Smith testified on HB1819 to eliminate curfew ordinances and HB 2066 to divert youth in care from the juvenile justice system. Ronald spoke powerfully about his own experiences with feeling penalized by law enforcement when he was experiencing homelessness. As Ronald explained, “We should normalize providing a supportive response when youth are experiencing tough times…we should be addressing what is causing them to be out late at night and missing school.”
Advocating On Behalf of Youth, Young Adults, and Providers at the United States Capitol
This month, members of our staff and representatives from TNOYS members LifeWorks and CitySquare also flew up to Washington, D.C. for the National Summit on Youth Homelessness, hosted by National Network for Youth. Attendees included TNOYS CEO Fedora Galasso, Director of Practice Ann-Charlotte Proffitt, and Program Coordinator Alex Polk. As presenters during the summit, Ann-Charlotte and Alex led an engaging session on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Youth (CSEY), Homelessness, & LGBTQ+ Youth.
Next, staff and member representatives were excited to participate in visits at the offices of Senator John Cornyn and Senator Ted Cruz. Alongside our members, we advocated for a range of important issues that impact Texas youth and families, including:
- Passing the Homeless Children and Youth Act (HCYA)
- Passing the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (RHYTPA)
- Funding for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) Program
- Funding for McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) Program
- Funding for the Youth Homeless Demonstration Program (YHDP)
- Funding for the Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG)
More information is available in this fact sheet from National Network for Youth. We’re grateful to National Network for Youth and the TNOYS members that joined us to make sure the concerns of Texas young people and providers are considered at the national level.
The TNOYS policy team is working hard this session to ensure that the priorities of our members and the young and young adults they serve are well represented at the Capitol. In addition to testimony, they are also working behind the scenes meeting with legislators and their staff to work our policy priorities and address concerns in different pieces of legislation that are moving. If you wish to be involved in our work or learn more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.