These remarks were part of the 2021 Rally for Kentucky Kids — watch a recording of the virtual rally and read more in this press release

By Felicity Therese Krueger

I am so honored to be here. I have been going to Children’s Advocacy Day since I was 12 years old. I can remember walking into the Rotunda and seeing all these people passionate about helping youth. And every year the passion grew stronger in these many people throughout Kentucky.

I would go with my mom every year. She was the first person who got me involved in advocacy. She is a woman who has been an advocate for kids for as long as I can remember and someone I look up to. I hope to grow up and be a social worker and foster mom, in hopes that I can continue to pass down advocating and love for others.

I followed my mom all around the state as she was making changes. I saw what was going on in my state and with kids who were my age and going through similar things as me. So, at 13 I got involved.

It started with Children’s Advocacy Day, which got me involved in many other things including Face It Youth Ambassadors. I am very hopeful of a future that is one of the kids who have someone standing up for them. I’m sharing my story in hopes it will help them.

I was one of the lucky ones. But, I wasn’t always lucky. Child Protective Services first intervened in the abusive home I was in when I was only a month old. After that, I spent most of my life bouncing around between foster homes and my biological parents. eventually ending up in my forever family and being officially adopted at age 2.

Now, most people look at that and think how lucky I am; that none of that trauma would affect me. I’ll admit I am lucky extremely. But I grew up with that trauma. I was young, but it still followed me around my whole life. I grew up with the story of the toddler terrified of boxes and water — pretty crazy for a toddler, huh? Usually, you buy a baby a toy and they play with the box. Not me — I screamed until the box left the room. But, that wasn’t all.

For as long as I can remember I would be fearful if I heard yelling or loud bangs and had the constant worry of being abandoned. I remember at 5 years old waking up crying because of a dream that my parents left. Until I walked into the kitchen and saw my mom making pancakes. I couldn’t understand why I felt these things. I started hearing more in-depth about what happened to me piecing things together and understanding more about the trauma I went through when I was only a baby. 

Me and my mom had a conversation when I was 13 after I expressed these anxious feelings. During that conversation was when I first heard the words pre-verbal trauma. Pre-verbal trauma is trauma that affects you before you can speak; it can be as early as being in the womb to the age of 3. Before age 3 you form your basic skills talking walking, the way you think and you start forming your love map, which the people who raise you create.

Most people believe being young means I wouldn’t remember a thing, but I did. So I knew what a kid going through the pain of going through trauma looked like. I started to identify the youth around me who are going through trauma as I grew older and started working with youth. 

A summer camp called Bear Creek was one of the places that grew and continues to grow my passion for helping youth who just want someone to stand up for them. I had gone to that summer camp since I was a little girl and I looked up to so many counselors there. I wanted to be just like them. I became a role model, someone who would listen and be there for them. And I’ll always say I learned from the best. But with the good can come bad. I remember a few summers ago I went and worked as a junior counselor at a summer camp we will call “Camp Sequoyah.” I saw kids who were dealing with trauma of all kinds and I saw adults who didn’t care, who saw them as “difficult kids” or kids “looking for attention.” 

That’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about the changes that the Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children are trying to make with these priorities. Priorities such as modifying the mandated child abuse reporting law to disallow “chain of command” procedures within public and private agencies.

You can help end the awful cycle of abuse and be a part of the solution.

I have seen both sides and let me tell you — the ones who root for kids will be on top. Please remember to stand up for every kid – -the lucky, the unlucky, the sad, and the happy. You never know what one child may be going through, so watch out for all of them no matter what. All kids need someone rooting for them. 

Felicity Therese Krueger is a Face It Youth Ambassador.