Advocacy group Florida Youth SHINE fights to help foster youth know their rights

Children’s week came to an end Wednesday at the Florida State Capitol but new relationships and paths are just getting started.

Tuesday night, youth-led foster advocacy group Florida Youth SHINE met with members of the Department of Children and Families to discuss the importance of youth advocacy.

Every year on the last night of Children’s Week at the Capitol, Florida Youth SHINE meets with the DCF to let them know what they need.

“What we do is we take our lived experience in care and fight really hard to try to change the foster care system because it really is broken,” said FYS Statewide Board Delegate Tee Lamore. “So we just try to use what we’ve been through to make it better for current and future foster youth.”

This week the group worked to get the Foster Youth Bill of Rights approved by lawmakers to make life easier for Florida’s young ones.

“The bill will take all of the existing framework, rights, responsibilities, and rules of foster youth and put it together in one concise bill,” explained FYS Statewide Board Delegate Kyle Johnson.” So that way foster youth, foster parents, case workers and everyone else can find it very easily and the youth are able to advocate for themselves if their rights are being violated.”

The night got very emotional as people shared how Florida Youth Shine helped them.

For some it even helped save their life.

“I’ve dealt with suicidal thoughts, even attempts because I just felt like everything I went through just didn’t mean anything,” shared Lamore. “I felt like nobody understood what I was going through but when I met all my peers, they understand what I’m going through, half of them have been there and I feel like we are just able to connect and relate.”

Hearing stories like Lamore’s reminded DCF secretary Shevaun Harris why she wakes up each day with purpose.

“I also think that we all share in a commitment to make the system better so opportunities like this is really important for us to come together and really brainstorm and talk through how we can all work collaboratively to make the system better,” shared Harris.

A group of young leaders motivated to ensure foster youth behind them have better experiences.

“I stand up for the rights of children so that they don’t have to be as broken as I was. But I’m not broken anymore, I am a success story and I’m not a statistic,” exclaimed Lamore.

A fair shot at a future is all they’re asking for.

House Bill 563 and Senate Bill 792 for the Foster Youth Bill of Rights are still waiting to hit the floor during this legislative session.



Copyright 2022 WCTV. All rights reserved.

Published: Feb. 3, 2022 at 12:06 AM EST

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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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