Maria Batista – Florida Youth SHINE Statewide Coordinator

Maria Batista has joined the Florida’s Children First staff as the Florida Youth SHINE Statewide Coordinator. Maria’s professional and educational background coupled with her lived experience in the foster care system equips her with the tools, skills, and perspective to empower youth to become leaders and advocates around the State of Florida.

Maria received her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Florida International University. Prior to this role, Maria worked at the Guardian ad Litem program and with youth experiencing homelessness at Vita Nova.

Maria is a dedicated advocate and speaker for child welfare reform. She has worked on key legislation and policies that have improved thousands of children’s lives in care. Her passion and advocacy journey began right here in Florida Youth SHINE as a teenager, when she became a member of Florida Youth SHINE. Growing up, Maria spent seven years in the Florida Foster Care system and saw the injustices that youth experienced first-hand. That drove her to devote her career to empowering youth to use their voices and lived expertise to make positive change in the foster care system while providing a safe and inclusive environment for all youth who have experienced the foster care system.

With her years of experience with FYS, she has seen how youth are the movers and shakers and the ones who are committed to improving the foster care system.  Maria is ecstatic to join the Florida’s Children First Team in this role, and provide opportunities to ensure youth have an authentic voice and are included in all discussions and decisions about the child welfare system and their lives.

Please Contact Maria HERE.

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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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