The Art of Advocacy – A Big Win!
by Mae Noonan, LSW / former EDM Supervisor / current EDM volunteer
The reality of working as an advocate for foster children is that you often fight uphill battles. I have been advocating for Trina* for several years with many highs and lows.
After a rollercoaster of a year, I’m happy to be writing about a win, Trina earned her high school diploma! There are many differing paths on the road to high school graduation and Trina’s hasn’t been an easy one, but thanks to a highly coordinated effort, Trina was able to complete the last course needed to reach the finish line this summer! Some are highlighted by end of year awards and prom, while others are racing to complete last minute assignments. Regardless, graduating high school is a huge accomplishment and should always be celebrated! Trina is now looking forward to the future, with many possibilities, opportunities, and newly opened doors ahead of her.
I want to give a big shout out to Rachel, the CASA Supervisor on my case who spent countless hours in the CASA office with Trina to support her while she worked virtually, provided impromptu zoom tutoring after work hours, and got creative in the ways CASA could support her physical and emotional needs. Trina’s entire team went above and beyond to make sure this graduation was possible, including her CUA team, child advocate attorney and social worker, and her high school staff. This was a huge team effort, but most of all- Trina worked incredibly hard over the past few months- and especially in the last week.
While there is so much to celebrate, and many people to thank, I would be remiss if I did not mention that this accomplishment was markedly more challenging due to the systemic failures young people in the child welfare system are forced to overcome. Approximately half of the young people with experience in the child welfare and/or juvenile justice system do not graduate high school on time. Some of the barriers include, enrollment issues, difficulty transferring credits, and varying graduation requirements. All of these issues directly impacted Trina on her road to graduation.
However, on a positive note, The Fostering A Smooth Transition for Graduation Bill, introduced as S.B. 324, is intended to relieve these issues and support students experiencing education instability. The bill defines “education instability” as one or more school changes in a year due to homelessness, an adjudication of dependency or delinquency, or a court-ordered voluntary placement or custody agreement. Without targeted support, youth who are forced to change schools due to homelessness, or foster care or juvenile justice system involvement, are at high risk of not graduating high school. Senate Bill 324 is intended to help youth experiencing education instability achieve school success through graduation planning, smoother transfer of academic credits, and targeted educational supports. If you would like to learn more, click here, for a link to JLC’s Fostering Graduation Success S.B. 324 Fact Sheet.
*name changed for confidentially