Former foster care child is honored for helping other youth

Left to right: Howard Talenfeld, Christina Spudeas, Keisha Anthony, Carlos Martinez and Michael Dunlavy
Left to right: Howard Talenfeld, Christina Spudeas, Keisha Anthony, Carlos Martinez and Michael Dunlavy MICHAEL MURPHY COURTESY


Kenisha Anthony entered the foster care system when she was 5 years old.

After she aged out at 18, she didn’t know where to go or what to do.

“When I aged out, I didn’t feel like my social worker had my best interest,” she said. “I wasn’t able to get independent living or any benefits. I didn’t know my rights. I got no help.”

Anthony wanted to keep that from happening to other foster children. She joined Florida Children’s First, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting foster children and other at-risk youth, in 2013.

Since then, she has helped advise people who want to be guardians ad litem; volunteered during Children’s Week, a grassroots children’s event supported by more than 100 nonprofit, corporate and faith-based organizations; and advised people who want to become foster parents.

Last month, Florida Children’s First recognized Anthony and other community leaders at the nonprofit’s annual Miami Fundraiser and Awards Ceremony. She was given the Youth Advocate of the Year award for her work in the community and with children in the foster care system.

“I’m just doing things from my heart,” she said. “It meant a lot to me to be recognized for my hard work. I’m appreciative that people are looking at me and supporting my endeavor.”

Anthony, now 23, is a junior at Florida State University. She graduates in December with a bachelor’s degree in social work.

“I set goals and accomplished them day-by-day,” she said. “In high school, I realized you have to find a way to make it on your own.”

Before she graduates, Anthony wants to study abroad in London and Prague to work with victims of domestic violence and abuse.

Also recognized during the award ceremony was Rep. Erik Fresen (R-Miami), who was named Champion of Children’s Rights for sponsoring the Attorneys for Dependent Children with Special Needs bill in the House of Representatives. The piece of legislation provides attorneys the right to protect dependent children with disabilities who are in legal custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). The bill passed in July 2014.

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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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