Name: Florida Youth Shine
Representing: 20,000 young people in foster care
Mission: Our Mission as advocates for the youth in Florida is to Empower, Improve, Educate, and Support the growth of tomorrow’s leaders through the combined knowledge and experience of today’s youth and supporters.
Description: Florida Youth SHINE (Striving High for Independence aNd Empowerment) is a youth-run, peer-driven organization that empowers current and former foster youth to become leaders and advocates within their communities. FYS has 12 chapters across the Sunshine State.
What we are working on in 2015:
- Group Home Reform: Every youth should have a Safe, Stable, and Nurturing Relationship.
- Tuition & Fee Exemption: A bill was filed that corrected all problems brought to light through the FCF White Paper on tuition exemption concerning problems for former foster youth in attending college.
- Juvenile Criminal Records: FYS is working in partnership with a campaign to advocate about the experiences youth in care have with juvenile records.
2014 Legislative Accomplishments
- Keys to Independence – Passed Law (HB 977): FYS youth traveled to the Capitol to testify at every committee meeting and worked with the Guardian ad Litem Program to promote the GAL bill for funding for foster children to obtain their driver’s permit, driver’s license and automobile insurance, as well as to give them priority to attend driver’s education training in high school.
- Nonrelative Caregiver Funding/Tuition Exemption for Youth – Key Language Incorporated into Law (SB 1666): Language was included in the child welfare bill to provide funding for nonrelative caregivers. Also, children who age out of nonrelative caregiver status will receive a tuition exemption just like those who age out of foster care or the Relative Caregiver Program. FYS testified and spoke repeatedly in favor of this language.
- Safe, Secure, Nurturing Relationship Act – Keeping Siblings together/visitation/communication – Key Language Incorporated into Law (SB 1666): Some language was placed in the child welfare bill that requires siblings be kept together, and if not, that they have visitation/communication. Language was also included that states a legislative preference for foster homes rather than group care. Florida Youth SHINE testified and spoke repeatedly before and during the session on this issue.
- Keeping IDs Safe (K.I.D.S. Act – SB 242) – Passed Law: FYS worked with the GAL to promote this legislation that protects all children from identity theft, by allowing caregivers to place a security freeze on the credit report of children younger than 16 who are in their care, and offered testimony before the senate.
2013 Legislative Accomplishments
- Independent Living Bill (SB 2114) impacted several existing laws including: Medicaid coverage to all youth aging out of care to age 21, new means for youth to open bank accounts and obtain driver’s licenses, and expanded eligibility for the Road to Independence.
- Keeping Children Safe Act (FL Statute 39.0139) protects youth from unsupervised visits with parents or caregivers accused of sexually abusing them.
- Children and Youth Cabinet Act (FL Statute 402.56) bringing together the head of every state department touching the lives of children with a mandate to hold public meetings and create improved and child focused public policy for children and youth.
- Right to an Education (SB 1128) removes barriers to school enrollment, clarifies who can make education decisions for foster children and assures the appointment of surrogate parents for children with disabilities.
- Right to Records (SB 126) provides current and former foster youth and their caregivers with better access to records.
- Quality Parenting Act (HB215) ensures normalcy for youth in care.
- Nancy C. Detert Common Sense and Compassion Independent Living Act (SB 1036) extends foster care benefits to the age of 21.