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A Thanksgiving Post

November 10, 2011

I’m the first to admit that I tend to be a glass-half-empty kind of person.  I spend a lot of my time focusing on the down side of things and complaining about the state of the world.  It does seem like there’s a lot to complain about (partisan bickering, high unemployment, global warming, budget crises, income inequality…) but in honor of Thanksgiving being just around the corner, I’ve decided to put on my happy face and spend some time thinking about what I’m grateful for.

AB12 – After years of advocacy and months of slogging through implementation meetings, AB12 is nearly upon us.  It’s easy to get bogged down in the details and forget the enormity of this change to foster care.  Higher rates of college access, reduced teen pregnancy, and more housing stability are just some of the outcomes we can expect to see in California if the research proves true.  It’s not a panacea but it is not overstating the case to describe the extension of foster care as momentous.  As I carve my turkey, this will be looming large in my celebration.

The Stimulus Bill – It’s been a rough year economically, but it could have been much rougher.  I’m not an economist, but my own personal experience with stimulus funded projects makes me believe that the suffering of many was lessened just a bit as a result of these funds.  The Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing program helped prevent homelessness for thousands of families in California including many transition aged youth.  The Homeless Youth Capacity Building Project, funded by stimulus money for the past two years, helped bolster grassroots organizations through the tough times.  Payments to states prevented very bad budget years from becoming catastrophic budget years.  I’ll taste a little stimulus with each bite of stuffing.

The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell – This may be on my mind because of a moving story I heard on NPR, but the repeal of this policy is definitely something to be grateful for.  Every step towards removing discrimination against gays and lesbians is worth celebrating (with a big helping of cranberry sauce).

Advocacy – Over the past year, I’ve had the chance to work with a number of advocacy groups who are out there fighting for homeless youth and foster care youth – both the AB12 co-sponsors and the many other groups in the trenches of policy change.  Without the work of these groups, we’d all be worse off.  Policy work can be slow and frustrating and I’m grateful for everyone out there who is willing to fight the good fight on behalf of California’s youth.  To them I dedicate my mashed potatoes.

Youth Service Providers – About this, words don’t really even do it justice.  There are so many folks out there working day in and day out to try to make the lives of young people better.  The non-profit providers, county and city staff, college and university support programs and many others.  Often unrecognized, overworked and underpaid and yet they come back, day after day, helping one person at a time and changing the world.  To express my gratitude this year I’ll take my pumpkin pie with an extra helping of whipped cream.

So there’s my thanksgiving list for 2011.  It was surprisingly easy to come up with a list of things I’m grateful for- I might have to try this more often.

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