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Nonprofit led by youth in the foster care system recognized for innovative child advocacy

Contact:  Fawn Pattison, ‭(919) 516-9581‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

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RALEIGH – On Friday April 5, the youth and adult leaders of SaySo will be awarded the first-ever Community Voices Award at the Voices for Children Breakfast in Raleigh. The organization is being recognized for its ground-breaking advocacy by and for youth. SaySo, or Strong Able Youth Speaking Out, is a statewide association of youth aged 14 to 24 who are, or have been, in the substitute care system in North Carolina. Statewide nonprofit organization NC Child organizes the event.

“SaySo’s members have first-hand experience of North Carolina’s child welfare system,” said Michelle Hughes, Executive Director of NC Child. “Youth who experience foster care know better than any of us what needs to be done to make that system work for kids who need a safe, stable, loving, and nurturing place to call home.”

In SaySo’s twenty one-year history, the organization has grown dramatically. What started as a small group of young people coming together every few months, has grown to 27 chapters across North Carolina, and a membership of over 750 young adults.  As a program of the Children’s Home Society of NC, SaySo’s youth speak with passionate voices of experience.

SaySo members are involved in local county efforts to support foster youth and strengthen the foster care system. They have been involved in state legislative efforts, from hosting statewide town hall meetings regarding the Normalcy Act and prudent parenting standards, to naming the TRIP (Transportation Really is Possible) Program that removes barriers from youth in care from obtaining their drivers licenses.  Most recently SaySo members worked with Senator Tamara Barringer and other legislative leaders to pass Rylan’s Law, a bill aimed transforming and improving North Carolina’s foster care system. SaySo members also serve as legislative pages during the spring, they hold an annual conference, as well as several other youth led events. Most importantly, they support each other in the life-altering transition to adulthood after foster care.

“SaySo youth help each other advocate for themselves, and for each other,” said Carmelita Coleman, SaySo’s program director. “The goal of these young leaders is to help kids leave foster care with a brighter future, and most of all with the belief that their voices matter.”

About the Community Voices Award

Once every two years, NC Child brings the child advocacy community together at an event to celebrate victories for children and their families, and to recognize leaders who have made a difference. At the Voices for Children Breakfast on April 5, the Tom V Child Advocacy Award will be presented to Karen McLeod. The Community Voices Award will be presented for the first time this year, and SaySo is the inaugural recipient. The award will be presented by the event’s honorary co-hosts, Brett Loftis and the Honorable Tamara Barringer.


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