Kaleb Syra, high school senior at Barren County High School, spoke at the 15th annual Children’s Advocacy Day at the Capitol on February 13, 2019. Read his speech below.

My name is Kaleb Syra. I am 17 and a senior in JROTC at Barren County High School. I have been part of the First Lady’s Youth Leadership Council for three years.

When I was three months old I was put into foster care. And from then until I was about 15 and ½, I was in seven different placements – sometimes going to a foster home, sometimes back to my mom, and sometimes with a relative. Throughout all these placements, at the least the ones I remember, I was mentally abused, physically abused, neglected, and emotionally traumatized.

My last foster placement, which was my favorite by the way, was with Tanna, who is here today. Her home was the one that I felt the safest in. It was a place that I knew I could stay for a while. She treated my brother, sister, and me like we were her own. She introduced me to the Boys & Girls Club of Glasgow-Barren County that provided me with another home away from home. They gave me the opportunity to be in the First Lady’s Youth Leadership Council. The Syra family were foster parents and we stayed with them overnight when Tanna and her husband went out for a date night. They decided to adopt us and after a couple years I was adopted at the age of 16.

I’m telling you all this because a bill that passed two years ago would have made this journey even easier for me. House Bill 180, also know as the fictive kin bill, allows kids who were going into foster care to go into a home like a friend, a teacher, or a pastor. This bill is important to me because it would have helped me and other kids have a home that is closer to the school that they were originally in. It also would cause less trauma to kids because they’re in a place with someone familiar who knows them and cares for them.

Another important bill, the driver’s license bill [House Bill 192], allows kids in foster care to be allowed to get their driver’s license. It was important to me because foster kids that can’t drive and that makes them feel left out, less important, and an oddity from society. This bill passed at the perfect time because just a few months later, I turned 16 and was able to get my permit!

You have made foster kids feel like they are normal, they are someone and with your continued help – we can do SO MUCH MORE. One way would be to focus on preventing kids from having to be part of the system in the first place.

It’s amazing that we have done so much in short time but there’s so much more that all Kentucky kids need. You are listening to a kid who has been through so much first-hand, and you are making decisions to help not just me but kids ALL OVER KENTUCKY.

Thank you all who are here to advocate along side of the kids of Kentucky. Thank you to the legislators who realize that we are your future. Let’s continue to stand together for Kentucky kids. BECAUSE KENTUCKY KIDS NEED ALL OF US!

Read a recap of Children’s Advocacy Day at the Capitol 2019 here.