Florida's Children First

Good for You: Florida’s Children First to honor local child advocate and former foster child

The organization that gives a political voice to young people in Florida’s dependency system recognized local youth Daniel Pettus for using his own voice to improve life for children in foster care.

Pettus, 23, the youth worker at Devereux Community Based Care of Okeechobee and the Treasure Coast who entered local foster care when he was 10, was recognized as a youth honoree during the June 19 Florida’s Children’s First 2014 Bay Area Reception, in Tampa.

Florida Children’s First is a non-profit organization whose mission is to protect the legal rights of at-risk children, especially those in Florida’s foster care system.

“Daniel has dedicated countless hours testifying in Tallahassee, serving on statewide committees, speaking with legislators…and sharing his story with the media,” said Geori Berman, coordinator for Florida Youth SHINE, an organization of young people who advocate on behalf of children in foster care.

He has served as the statewide Florida Youth SHINE chair for the past two years, leading advocacy efforts that eventually led to the passage of three child-welfare laws, including the recently adopted Extended Foster Care act that gives youth in foster care the option to remain in care through their 21st birthday.

Pettus entered care at the age of 10 and transitioned in and out of care many times until he turned 18. Although an adult and no longer able to remain in foster care, Pettus was being served by a local program called Road to Success, which helped him transition out of foster care and into college. During his stay in foster care, he was separated from his two sisters – an experience that still drives much of his advocacy.

“Daniel feels an obligation to join the fight for young people’s rights because of his own story,” Berman said.

Pettus, who is pursuing an engineering degree at Indian River State College, said his greatest passion is to help build the tools that other young people will use to overcome adversity in their own lives. He draws inspiration from historical leaders like Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy and from American clergyman and author Phillips Brooks, who said, “I do not pray for a lighter load, but for a stronger back.”

“There were times when it all seemed too much,” Pettus said. “I wondered how I could possibly help enough people with my voice alone…but I asked for more strength, and I found it within myself.”

Devereux Community Based Care of Okeechobee and the Treasure Coast is the non-profit organization responsible for all known abused, abandoned and neglected children in Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties. It is contracted by the Florida Department of Children and Families to coordinate and oversee the local child-welfare system in those counties.

This story is contributed by a member of the Treasure Coast community and is neither endorsed nor affiliated with TCPalm.com

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