Using Our Shared Power to Advance Justice

In December 2023, I was invited to CSSP’s convening, Moving Ideas into Action: Using Our Shared Power to Advance Justice, in Washington, DC. As a young parent leader who has not had many opportunities to meet with like-minded peers, this was the event of the year! Young adults with lived experience in foster care came together nationwide to learn from each other, deepen our knowledge and connections, and support our advocacy efforts. We aim to improve policies and advance justice for Black, Indigenous, Latine, LGBTQ+, and immigrant youth and young parents. The young adults were from three of CSSP’s constituent engagement initiatives(CARES; Youth Power, Parent Power; and Youth Thrive). I am a young parent with the Youth Power, Parent Power initiative. I hope to increase community resources and support for youth and young parents in and transitioning out of the foster care system. I also work for the Southeast Nebraska Collaborative, an organization committed to building a community-based prevention system. It was awe-inspiring to be in a space where you could physically feel the passion from the lived experience individuals and supporters alike.

My favorite panel was the “Advancing Justice: Opportunities in Voices,” where we heard from a group of lived experience experts who have been using their voices and experiences to advocate for systems-level change in the child welfare, juvenile justice, and other oppressive systems. They are also advocating to increase community support and resources such as housing, financial literacy, mental health, and employment to help young people and their families thrive. This strengthens my resolve that although change can take time, this fight is still worth fighting. From peer support to community engagement to local and national policy work; what we are doing is important and we don’t have to do it alone. This was further solidified by hearing from Congressman Gwen Moore (the keynote speaker for the convening) and CSSP President Leonard Burton about their advocacy journeys and how they continue their efforts to address pressing social justice issues our society faces today. 

There were sessions that helped us strengthen our skills and think about what is the next step in our advocacy work. How do we want to expand our initiatives? Who do we want to partner with? How can we translate our advocacy skills into careers we want to pursue? I appreciated these sessions because we can easily get tunnel vision, and these conversations challenged me to think ahead, be open-minded, and be visionary. I also enjoyed the informal downtime to connect with peers, where we explored DC together as it was the first time visiting for some of us. 

I left the convening with a renewed love and enthusiasm for this work, which has continued to fuel my community and national-level work. Sometimes, it can be discouraging to advocate for change and see no movement. I was reminded that there is steady movement, even if I can’t always see it. I appreciate and support all the changemakers that I met during this convening. I am rooting for all of us!