San Antonio, Corpus Christi and McAllen youth converge on State Capitol
Aproximately 20 youth and staff from several BCFS Health and Human Services sites joined more than 300 youth from Texas’ foster care system at the State Capitol for Youth In Action Capitol Day. At each of Texas’ biannual legislative sessions, Texas Network of Youth Services’ (TNOYS) organizes the trip for youth to show their support for bills pertinent to the foster care system and the struggles of former foster youth.
Youth from BCFS Health and Human Services have participated in Youth In Action Capitol Day during every Texas legislative session since 2005. TNOYS provided youth an overview of the timely issues that impact youth in foster care during Youth in Action Capitol Day, among them the need for high-quality, trauma-informed foster care services, and added support services for youth as they transition to adulthood. The young men and women who traveled to the capitol were awarded a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse into the mechanics of the democratic process.
“Youth in Action Capitol Day gives our youth an opportunity to learn about the legislative process and policymaking,” says Deyanira Garcia, Program Director for BCFS-McAllen’s Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program and Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). “It’s at the state capitol where all the decisions that affect all Texans are made, and it’s a chance for them to have their voices heard by the people that make those decisions.”
Garcia and BCFS-McAllen PAL Coordinator Melissa Gonzalez accompanied four youth from BCFS Health and Human Services-McAllen to Austin for Youth In Action Capitol Day.
“These four youth were selected to participate in the event because they have shown great strides in school and work,” explained Garcia. “They took it very seriously and were excited to share their thoughts about their foster care experience.”
In preparation, the youth from BCFS-McAllen made posters displaying heartfelt quotes about their personal challenges faced in the foster care system. The posters were displayed at the Youth Voice Matters Rally on the steps of the Capitol, a powerful show of strength of the young men and women’s collective voice. One such poster held high at the event read: “Every child has a right to normalcy, happiness, and a prosperous future. It’s our job to weaken those oppositions that they face,” signed simply, “Hugo,” a young man served by BCFS-McAllen.
“The youth also worked on a brochure for the event’s Visual Showcase that highlights the need for a transitional center in the Rio Grande Valley, Medicaid concerns and the scope of schools covered by the tuition waiver program,” Garcia said.
Youth in foster care are eligible to receive a state-supported tuition waiver if they choose to attend college or vocational school.
Youth from BCFS Health and Human Services locations in McAllen, Corpus Christi and San Antonio attended Youth in Action Capitol Day. Each of these locations serves youth in foster care, those who have aged out of foster care, and those struggling with poverty, homelessness or an unstable home life. Youth rely on the centers for case management, life skills workshops, and help with education, employment and housing location. BCFS Health and Human Services operates six youth centers across Texas, as well as other locations in Del Rio and Harlingen that serve at-risk families.