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

Florida Youth SHINE uses their youth led advocacy to fight for change for foster youth across the state.
Published: Feb. 3, 2022 at 12:06 AM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - 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.

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