Oregon Foster Youth Connection is a program of Our Children Oregon built to empower current and former foster youth to share their voices and be heard in key decisions affecting children and foster youth. OFYC looks forward to improving the foster care system through advocacy, activism, and leadership while ensuring that all children and youth in the foster care system, from the youngest to those aging-out, are well cared for and empowered to succeed
Throughout May, Our Children Oregon has shared resources and programs to highlight Foster Care Awareness Month, and we also wish to share the amazing work OFYC members have done and continue to do throughout the current legislative session. For the remainder of the month, we will share the thoughts and perspectives of current and former foster youth achievements, along with the importance of peer connections to build a sense of community empowerment.
Each post will highlight a specific OFYC member and their experiences within the legislative session, their role as a OFYC member, and what they aspire to accomplish as youth advocates.
Hannah Royal is a former foster youth and current OFYC member who works actively on the OFYC’s Legislative Action Team, the advisory committee and monthly OFYC meetings. She speaks on panels for foster parent trainings, and is working to pursue another legislative concept for a future legislative session. She believes that OFYC’s main goal is to help current and former foster youth to advocate for themselves and empower one another to advocate for themselves, as well as connect with one another personally.
This is her second time being involved during Oregon’s Legislative Session, and she is grateful that the measure she is focusing on this session (HB 2505: Eliminating implicit bias in Child Welfare Response) has received bipartisan support. During this session, Hannah has reflected that some legislative aspects have been eye-opening, “legislators hold much power within the session and on the passage of bills.” For example, “withholding a vote can stop a measure from passing and sometimes seems like abuse of power to force bills not to pass.”
Like mentioned above, OFYC has been advocating for the passage of the measure HB 2505, a 2021 Children’s Agenda priority. Hannah shared that passing this measure would mean the prevention of bias within the foster care system. She explains, “currently, Black and Native youth are disproportionately represented in foster care in Oregon, as well as more broadly in the U.S. This bill would ensure families receive needed support before entering the foster care system, and hopefully eliminate the current biases that exist within child welfare decisions through the provision of checks, balances, and leading to the introduction of new laws that help to mitigate bias. It can impact more than Black and Indigenous youth in care, while also eliminating bias against any type of prejudice like ableism, sexism, classism, homo/transphobia, and more.”
Hannah is grateful to have found OFYC and its surrounding opportunities. She joined OFYC after she was in foster care, but being a part of OFYC has given her such a new perspective, and it has been great to connect with other foster youth and learn about their own experiences and how they were similar to or different from hers. It has also given her the opportunity to find herself as a leader and has empowered her to get more involved with politics. She has gained so much by being a part of OFYC, and has developed many skills that she has been able to transfer to various parts of her life.
Hannah will age out of OFYC soon, but she hopes to continue with the legislative process for her last year as an OFYC member. She is excited to keep working on new measures to support the lives of foster youth in Oregon. After she leaves OFYC, she hopes to become an adult supporter and become a mentor to new OFYC members. Eventually, Hannah shares she “hopes to empower foster youth to take up OFYC leadership roles and contribute to foster youth advocacy.” She wants to help foster youth find their own voice, speak up and advocate for themselves.