So many people don’t know how to recognize abuse that isn’t physical.”

“Help kids both within and outside of ‘the system’ to learn healthy methods to cope with their abuse.”

“Abolish the rumors others outside of the foster care system start that automatically assume those within the system are ‘bad kids.’  Get kids out in the community doing good things.  Show people the good.”

“Work on removing the moratorium and get the financial assistance up and moving again for incoming kinship care kids.  Money and stress can cause kin to reject the children and cause resentment.”

“Allow kids in child welfare to have the same opportunities as kids NOT in child welfare.”

These ideas and many more were written and verbalized by a group of young Kentuckians at the inaugural First Lady’s Youth Leadership Council fall retreat in Louisville.  Through a partnership with Kentucky Youth Advocates, Kosair Charities®, and Casey Family Programs, First Lady Glenna Bevin invited youth and young adults from across the state with diverse backgrounds to come together and forge a common ground around three big issues that affect children in Kentucky:  child welfare, child abuse and neglect, and family preservation.

At the kick-off luncheon hosted by First Lady Bevin, the Legislative Director of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Eric Clark, shared his story of overcoming child abuse and encouraged the youth to find strength from their experiences and to utilize their unique stories to influence positive change.  Some were able to express their ideas for change the very next day as local legislators, including Representative Denny Butler, Representative Joni Jenkins, Representative Mary Lou Marzian and Representative Jerry Miller, stopped by to listen.

These youth, who are representing all parts of Kentucky from east to west, north and south, are determined to become leaders in change of the continuum of care within the child welfare system.  Many of them are or have been part of the foster care system, have young family members they are caring for, or have a passion for helping others that don’t have families.  Throughout this year and next, these young leaders will continue in their quest to identify the areas of need and more importantly, identify and advocate for policies and regulations that will improve the Kentucky child welfare system for all Kentucky children and youth.