Heroes for foster kids honored in Orlando

As much as we Americans tend to worship our professional sports stars — even as they’re being arrested for domestic violence or child abuse or using illicit substances — the real heroes in our midst are not household names.

They’re guys like Gerry Glynn, Randy Pawlowski and Andrew Trepte — men who have stepped up for kids who have been abused, abandoned and neglected before ending up in Florida’s foster care system. These are kids who really need someone looking out for them.

On Thursday night, the statewide advocacy group Florida’s Children First honored the three in Orlando. Glynn, named “Child Advocate of the Year,” has spent most of his career fighting for children’s rights, especially their right to independent legal representation. He has been an associate professor and director of clinical programs at Barry University School of Law and a clinical instructor at the Florida State University School of Law Children’s Advocacy Center — places where he encouraged his students to volunteer on behalf of foster kids. At one point, he also oversaw the Barry University Juvenile Justice Center — a statewide training and resource center for juvenile public defenders in Florida.

Gerry was recently elected president of the National Association of Lawyers for Children.
Meanwhile, “Foster Parent of the Year” honors went to 49-year-old Pawlowski of Sanford, a single father who has adopted five teenagers and taken in 15 foster kids for varying lengths of time. A dean at Seminole State College, he had some idea what he was getting into, though he perhaps underestimated the drama and angst. He learned quickly not to push too hard.

“I’m not their dad,” he said in an interview in June. “But we are family.”

And “Youth Advocate of the Year” honors went to Trepte, 21, a former foster kid himself. When he was still in high school, Trepte joined the Seminole County Youth Advisory Board, advocating to keep siblings together and to give youth a stronger voice in their medical and mental health treatment. He also volunteered to work with a foster-parent training program to help them understand the needs of teens, and he volunteered for Best Buddies, befriending fellow teens with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“I just love to help people out,” Trepte said. A 2012 graduate of Seminole High School, he’s now in the automotive program at Seminole State College, scheduled to graduate next year. “I feel like I need to make a difference.”

Original post at Orlando Sentinel

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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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