Letting Kids Be Kids

Stephen Satchell was a sprinter in high school. He was also a foster kid. When his team made the finals Stephen couldn’t go, because laws meant to protect foster kids often keep them from living normal lives.

“My case worker didn’t schedule the court appearance in time and I wasn’t able to get the court order to attend and it was really devastating because we made nationals that year,” said Satchell.

Stephen is part of Florida Youth SHINE, a foster care advocacy group helping change state law. Thursday in Tallahassee they shared stories of how red tape keeps foster kids down.

“In 7th grade I had a best friend and I wasn’t able to go to her house,” said Danielle McMahan.

“In elementary school a lot of the kids were able to go out to do these youth programs for the church and I was never allowed to go because I was in a group home,” said Ti’erra Carter.

A simple right of passage like getting a drivers license at 16 couldn’t be done without a case worker or in some cases a court order.

The laws are meant to protect foster kids from dangerous situations but they were keeping the kids from harmless activities. Not anymore.

“What a momentous day today is,” said David Wilkins.

With the stroke of a pen Governor Rick Scott eliminated the barriers. Now decisions about sports, sleepovers and field trips can be made by foster parents, not case workers and courts and even though it’s too late to help these child advocates, they’re still rejoicing.

“Florida Youth SHINE is awesome and I feel like it’s really unreal,” said McMahan.

“It’s a really big day,” said Carter.

One more victory for the advocacy group and more opportunity for foster kids.

According to a legislative study just 10% of eligible Florida foster kids have received a learner’s permit and just three percent a driver’s license. Now the decision about when the teens can apply for their licenses will be solely in the hands of their foster parents.

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Alexia Nechayev

FYS Events & Meeting Chair
(Palm Beach)

Hello, My name is Alexia Nechayev. I am 25 years old and I am an alumna of Florida International University where I received my B.A. in Psychology. My future career goal is to be a Lawyer. I was in care for about one year from age 17 to 18. Prior to entering care, I only knew about the negative stigma regarding foster care and while in care that narrative was unfortunately my experience.

In school I felt like I was on display because my status in care was broadcast to other students and in my placement behavior was leveraged for “privileges” that should be a natural right of all children. Because I did not know my rights I did not know that what I was experiencing was wrong. Today this is exactly why I advocate, because I don’t want this to be the same for other youth who are experiencing foster care.

This is my second year on the FYS Statewide Board and I’m happy to be the Events and Meetings Chair this year because my main goal through advocacy is to reach as many people as possible. My favorite thing as a board member is to see how comfortable members become while working together. The community needs to know that youth in foster care are real people, going through some of the hardest moments of their life and youth need to know that their voice is powerful. I believe that we have to speak up and bring these issues to people’s attention so that they do not forget us. Advocacy, education and consistency is the only way.

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