TNOYS has long held the belief that youth-adult partnership in policy advocacy is an equity issue. For policies and laws that concern youth and young adults to create meaningful change, it is imperative to center their voices and amplify their expertise.
Our team has put this value into action by partnering with youth and young adult leaders throughout our advocacy for the 87th Legislative Session. Starting last year, TNOYS’ policy team hosted a series of listening sessions with over 80 young and young adults and hundreds of youth-serving providers from across Texas, which directly influenced our cross-systems policy agenda.
TNOYS has also worked to center young people by connecting our Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC) members with opportunities for advocacy and storytelling. Several young adults participated in videos on why access to a driver’s license is important for youth experiencing homelessness or in foster care, and on helpful support services for youth that experienced homelessness. Moreover, some members testified in support of legislation, such as Brenda Woolley who shared her story with the Texas Legislature in support of the PAL Program.
TNOYS staff members with lived expertise also had the chance to make their voices heard this session. Prince Hayward, TNOYS’ Policy Specialist and a young adult with lived expertise, supported our efforts by testifying for a range of important bills.
As Prince explained, “I believe more youth should be a part of the process, because elected officials get a better idea of what’s really going on from people who have experienced it. I think they feel more pressure to follow through when they know a young person is there to hold them accountable.”
Prince delivered impactful testimony regarding the need to provide supports, including drivers education, driving hours and access to cars to take driving tests, to help youth currently or previously in foster care and youth and young adults experiencing homelessness to get their driver’s licenses. Prince also testified in support of legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18, and to decriminalize the status offense of running away.
Youth-Adult Partnership in Action
At TNOYS, we’ve seen time and again how hearing directly from both services providers and the young people who have received services can have a powerful impact on lawmakers.
This session, TNOYS was pleased to facilitate virtual visits with legislative offices to demonstrate the impact that policies have on providers and youth. The visits included young people on the YALC and professionals from member organizations like STARRY, THRU Project, and Pegasus Schools. Jessica Kilpatrick, Chief Program Officer at STARRY, recalled the experience:
“My legislative meetings were very eye-opening for me this year. The youth partner that I had a chance to work with was incredible and taught me so much. I now recognize my lack of awareness when it comes to the unmet needs of former foster youth transitioning into adulthood. I’m really grateful that TNOYS gave me the opportunity to meet and work alongside such a bright young woman.”
We’re grateful for the youth-adult partnership demonstrated by our member organizations and the YALC and for their participation in our advocacy efforts and impactful testimony.
While the 87th Texas Legislature ends on May 31, TNOYS is committed to continuing its efforts to bring youth and young adults into the legislative process. We look forward to working with YALC members, member organizations, and other supporters to advocate for public policies and priorities to strengthen youth and families.