John Watson, Rayla James of Brevard Recognized for Advocacy for Youth in Foster Care
By Space Coast Daily // August 21, 2020
bringing youth and supporting adults together
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – The Florida Coalition for Children recognized two Brevard County Youth as recipients of the Outstanding Youth Award for their dedication to improving the lives of youth in foster care.
John Watson and Rayla James, who serve as President and Vice President of the Brevard County Youth Leadership Council, received their awards in a virtual ceremony hosted by the FCC, as part of an annual, state-wide awards ceremony celebrating youth and child advocates who make a positive impact in the community.
Founded by Brevard Family Partnership in 2018, and facilitated by Smile for Budgie, the Brevard Youth Leadership Council was formed as a platform for current and former youth in the foster care system to develop leadership skills and work alongside child welfare professionals to help find solutions for local and statewide issues in the foster care system.
By bringing youth and supporting adults together, the Leadership Council is able to implement and sustain youth-driven policy and practice changes.
Key priorities for the Brevard Youth Leadership Council include:
■ Increasing quality foster homes and additional homes that can provide specialized care and permanency for youth in foster care.
■ Providing networking opportunities among youth in care to promote positive youth development and engagement in legislative policy and practice change.
■ Increasing mentors and supporting adults for youth in care.
■ Building capacity of youth to successfully transition to independence after exiting the foster care system.
James is a student at Eastern Florida State College who will earn her associate’s degree this fall and transfer to the University of Central Florida to continue her studies in elementary education.
A passionate advocate for youth in the foster care system, she has become a voice for those in foster care that feel they cannot speak for themselves or promote change.
“The youth voice needs to be the forefront of all policy and practice if we want to improve child welfare,” said James.
“We are the ones who have lived these experiences and we are the ones that need change. I intend on ensuring that all youth have access to independent living training and that child welfare agencies employ quality foster parents.”
After spending five years in the Brevard County System of Care, Watson is a sophomore at Eastern Florida State College and has worked as a youth adviser to Brevard Family Partnership for several years.
He plans to pursue a career in Political Science and currently lives with his former foster family that still treats him like their own.
He currently serves on the Ready for Life and the Friends of Children of Brevard Board of Directors as a representative of the Brevard Youth Leadership Council.
“I cannot think of youth more worthy than Rayla and John for this award as they are true ambassadors of our message of ‘Fostering Hope’ here in Brevard County,” said Brevard Family Partnership CEO, Phil Scarpelli.
“These two young adults have touched my life, and have made a grand impact as leaders in advocating for the future of all foster youth throughout Florida.”
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