You are trying to connect a youth to employment or housing, but the youth does not have a state-issued photo ID or birth certificate. Your state law does not allow youth under 18 to obtain these documents without a parental signature, but this teenager does not know how to find his parents. Another teen’s parents simply refuse to sign any documents for her.

Unfortunately, it’s a fairly common scenario.

Without an ID and birth certificate, it can be impossible for youth to access the services and income needed to keep themselves safe and moving toward independence. Yet, the state law does not recognize the reality of unaccompanied youth homelessness.

The solution: change the state law.

It can be done in any state. SchoolHouse Connection is working with partners across the country to align state laws like these with the realities of homelessness. Last week, the governor of Tennessee signed HB 2303, which allows children and youth of any age experiencing homelessness to obtain their birth certificate and state ID. The bill passed the Senate unanimously, with only two votes in opposition in the House. Legislators on both sides of the aisle saw the wisdom in eliminating barriers to youth obtaining the documents and services they need.

We teamed up with committed advocates from public schools, universities, the United Way, and community-based organizations to turn this bill into law. Bill sponsors Bill Beck and Jeff Yarbro led the charge, with invaluable support from our close partner Stewart Clifton.

We will continue to work on state policy across the country this year and into the 2019 legislative session. This fall, we will be offering free State Advocacy Institutes in Maine, Missouri, Nevada, and North Carolina, to provide policy advocacy training and work with state teams to develop legislative agendas. If you would like more information about our State Advocacy Institutes or assistance addressing a state policy barrier in your state, please contact Patricia Julianelle, our Director of Program Advancement and Legal Affairs. To learn more about your state’s laws on IDs for youth, consult the National Network for Youth’s state-by-state summary.

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