As a former youth in foster care, I have experienced firsthand the care of children in our state and how our childcare systems prepare youth for the transition from foster care to adulthood. While Florida has made great changes, a report recently released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows our outcomes are about the same as the national average. However, we want the best, not average. This report, Fostering Youth Transitions, includes comprehensive national data explaining how young people ages 14 and older are doing as they transition from foster care into adulthood.
I am from the foster care system and am the statewide chair of Florida Youth SHINE, a group of current and former foster youth advocates across Florida. We believe that in order to have better outcomes for children, they need to be more informed and understand their rights. In order to accomplish this, we need a Bill of Rights for kids in foster care. When I was in foster care I felt like I didn't have a voice and I didn't know who to talk to when I needed things. For example, seeing my sister was extremely important to me, yet when I would ask for visitation I would be told no without any reason. I felt defeated and voiceless. I found out later that Florida has a law that would require regular visitation and interaction with my sister. Being armed with the knowledge about my rights and the tools to advocate for myself makes me feel confident that I am improving the system for those who are coming behind me. All foster youth deserve to know their rights, and to know about what is happening in their lives and how they can have their needs met. Florida lawmakers must consider implementing a Bill of Rights for children in care so these children can understand their rights.
Anna Zhang, Coral Springs
The author is the statewide chair of Florida Youth SHINE, a statewide youth-driven, peer-led organization that empowers current and former foster youth to become advocates for all youth in care. A native of Hillsborough County, she came into foster care at age 14, and left foster care when she turned 18.
Working here and now to curb climate change | Column, Dec. 16
Let's take difficult steps
Many thanks to Janet Long and Susan Glickman for writing about the need to work to curb climate change, especially here in Florida. The several alliances that they reported on will help communities adapt to the changes already coming, like those from sea level rise. However, adaptation is not enough. Should we plan to raise the roads ever higher each year?
In order to actually curb climate change, we need to take some difficult steps. The first one would be to wean ourselves off burning fossil fuels. Such a change is huge, but we must do this for our children.
Well, here is a chance to take that first step. Just after Thanksgiving, five U.S. representatives, two Republicans (Francis Rooney of Florida and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania) and three Democrats (Ted Deutch and Charlie Crist, both of Florida, and Tom Delaney of Maryland) co-sponsored the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 7173) — a bipartisan bill that puts a price on carbon pollution and returns the money to the American people. Their plan is effective, reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent in 12 years; good for the U.S. economy, adding over 2 million jobs in 10 years, and good both for people's health with cleaner air and for their finances with the revenue returned to them monthly.
Long and Glickman would like to see Tampa Bay host the 25th Conference of the Parties. HR 7173 adds another reason this makes sense. Not only will Florida be hard hit by climate change, not only are there already several alliances uniting many communities in the state in their adaptation efforts, but also, we have three of the representatives who are original co-sponsors of the first serious, bipartisan, carbon pollution bill.
Susan Darovec, Bradenton
Judge criticizes Flynn, postpones sentencing | Dec. 19
Don't debate the obvious
The United States has a number of citizens who think there is no crime in lying to the FBI (at least when the admitted liar is Michael Flynn). They propose that when the FBI asks questions, that is entrapment.
And many people are actually taking this ludicrous claim seriously and debating it.
I guess we need all stores to post signs indicating that looting and shoplifting are illegal. Stores must stop showing their goods, because they are just trying to bait and entrap us.
Should we have a debate as to whether the moon is made of green cheese?
John Dalton, St. Petersburg
Go ahead, stir the pot | Column, Dec. 15
Talk amongst your kin
Mr. Jason LeClerc, thank you for your words of wisdom in this column. If we cannot learn to speak our minds with our family and friends, how can we learn civil discourse with others? This seems to be a terrible problem in our country, and it's only getting worse.
Ruth Mahoney, Riverview
Ban texting while driving | Letter, Dec. 18
When pets distract drivers
Driving while holding a dog, cat or any animal should have been banned years ago. If small children have to be confined to a car seat, why not a cage for animals?
If we are going to make using a cell phone a primary offense then we need to consider other activities that cause distracted driving. Putting on make-up, eating, etc.
Every day we see it — cars swerving and encroaching on your lane. One look tells you exactly what they are doing. They are trying to let their dog part way out the window, get control of a sub sandwich or get their blush on just right.
If anyone can give a good reason not to look at all reasons for distracted driving, let's hear it.
Barry Walker, Thonotosassa