Sometimes I can’t believe this is life. I think it finally came together on a Saturday night when I was introducing BOLD to the folks at the 5th Annual National Crittenton Fundraiser in DC. It’s such a lovely event and being there put our last meetings in perspective:

Picture this – three BOLD women making their way to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). I, along with two of my BOLD Sisters put our heels on and took over the Capitol Hill. Our first meeting was with the Administration for Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) – more specifically the Commissioner of ACYF and his staff. We spoke about the gaps in services, we shared data on ACES, we talked about our experiences as young mothers, involved in the system, and how thanks to support we’ve been able to break the cycle. Thanks to BOLD we’ve transformed from clients to matter experts and we’re empowered to be in a position where we can help give other young women a voice. This was powerful stuff.

Meeting two was a few offices down the hall at the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) – the office that oversees federal programs such as food stamps and cash assistance. For a girl who wants to be the next Kathy Sebelius or Donna Shalala (I never knew who the Secretary of State was when I was younger, but I knew from the beginning who these women were) walking the halls of HHS was pretty powerful stuff. I have to admit this meeting made the most impact for me. There were a lot more people, who looked to us as the “experts” on what they need to work on. Sharing the facts on ACEs and the issues women and girls face gets them listening, but they are genuinely interested in finding solutions and getting ideas on what really works to make a difference. These folks are in the business of helping people, and what I realized is that there is so much good that they want to do, but it’s so hard for it to get to the people who need it. I wish the families who end up in their local social services office could have seen the faces of all these workers just as much as they all could see what happens at the local level – one can only dream for an ideal world one day.

Lastly, we made our way to the White House! We met with the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, along with additional representatives from the Office of the Vice President and the Council on Women and Girls. It was surreal to walk the halls, to hear our heels clacking, each step taking us closer to marking our spot as advocates for women and girls. Again, the feeling of being heard was indescribable – we were there to talk about Crittenton and the work they’re doing, and how they’re paving the way for groundbreaking research on ACEs, but also to talk about BOLD and how programs need to come from women so that they make an impact on women.

BOLD is a movement, and after our last meetings, I have no doubt we’re picking up momentum and there’s no stopping us now. What a great way to end an amazing year.

-Lisette Engel

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