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Commonwealth Conversations: Speaking up for Young Adults

On Tuesday, April 4, Wayside Youth & Family Support Network President & CEO, Eric L. Masi, Ed.D. and Wayside Tempo Young Adult Resource Center Program Director, Yolanda Ortiz, testified before local Senate leaders at the Warren Conference Center & Inn in Ashland concerning legislation pertinent to human services nonprofits, especially those serving at-risk young adults.

Tempo Young Adult Resource Center serves over 300 young adults every year, more than 100 of whom have aged out of DCF, DMH or DYS, and are seeking housing, employment, education, health care and other basic needs. Speaking to the challenges young adults often face, Dr. Masi said, “As you can imagine, young adults aging out of foster care, or the mental health juvenile justice system often are particularly under-prepared for the world that awaits them, and most do not have the family supports that so many other young adults have available to them. The Commonwealth has been their support system.”

Senator Spilka has long been a fervent supporter of Wayside, and Tempo in particular. Senator Spilka understands the extra challenges our young people face, and she has introduced the “Juvenile Justice Omnibus Bill” in an attempt to bridge the gap for young adults facing some of life’s greatest challenges.

The “Juvenile Justice Omnibus Bill” seeks to raise the lower age of juvenile jurisdiction to exclude children under age 12 (from age 7). In addition, the bill aims to raise the upper age of juvenile jurisdiction to under age 21 to ensure there is adequate opportunity to rehabilitate older youth entering the system, including extending the commitment with DYS in youthful offender cases to age 23.

Senator Spilka has also sponsored a bill “that will ensure that juvenile court records are expunged when cases are dismissed or not prosecuted. It also addresses the sealing of juvenile courts records to ensure that they do not become barriers for future employment.

Lastly, Senator DiDomenico and Representative Gregoire have co-sponsored important legislation to automatically enroll all foster youth aging out of DCF custody into MassHealth.

Yolanda stated, “research on adolescent development consistently shows young people don’t fully mature until their mid-20s. Research also shows that the majority of young people do learn from their mistakes and “mature out” of criminality. Without services that consider their unique developmental needs, emerging adults will stay in jail longer or reoffend and return to jail more quickly (especially following their release).”

In closing, Yolanda said, “I hope you consider supporting these three bills because ALL young people deserve a second chance and the resources to get back on track.”


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