Across the State: Youth SHINE Holds First Quarterly Meeting

Florida Youth SHINE (Striving High for Independence and Empowerment) convened in Sarasota for their Statewide Quarterly Meeting from January 23-25.  Approximately 20 current and former foster youth from 14 chapters gathered to work on statewide issues that affect youth in Florida. They also developed legislative literacy and leadership capabilities.

Youth SHINE is a peer-driven organization working diligently to change the culture of Florida’s child welfare system and to push the state to ensure better outcomes for youth. Chapters welcome members ages 13-24 who have been touched by the system of care and are passionate about advocacy.  While the organization is youth-led, there are adult mentors involved including FFCR’s Training & Engagement Manager Marissa Leichter who works directly with the Miami chapter.

During Children’s Week this March, Youth SHINE will be heading to Tallahassee to advocate for the Foster Care Bill of Rights which empowers children to be self-advocates and to know their rights. Twenty-six states have a statute or policy that lists the rights afforded to youth in care, and Youth SHINE advocates are requesting statutory language that lists current and important rights for children in foster care and their caregivers. As outlined in the Bill of Rights agenda, “Florida’s children in foster care need a process where they are educated about their rights in an age appropriate, understandable, and consistent way.”

Sarasota County Commissioner Nancy Detert, who served in the Florida Senate from 2008 to 2016 and Florida House of Representatives from 1998 to 2006, addressed the group and shared skills to prepare the youth for their latest advocacy efforts.

Youth SHINE is highlighting the areas where Florida is below the national average which include the number of youth who are employed and have stable housing. Florida has more youth who become young parents and is ranking average in youth in foster care receiving high school diplomas.  Using the Annie E. Casey’s Foundation’s Fostering Youth Transition report that compares national data on young people ages 14 and older transitioning from care to adulthood, Youth SHINE members released a strong call to action asserting,  “Good ‘parents’ want the best for their kids. Average is not sufficient. Florida has great laws but not the greatest outcomes. We shouldn’t be content with being average.”

Attendees learning about branches of government and elected officials in a hands-on activity. 

The Miami chapter of Florida Youth SHINE with Adult Mentors Robert Latham, Esq. (Associate Director, Children & Youth Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law) and Marissa Leichter, Esq. (Training & Engagement Manager, Florida Foster Care Review)

The statewide delegation who attended the Quarterly Meeting in Sarasota.