'Foster Care Bill of Rights' seeks to safeguard children in Florida

2 bills under consideration by lawmakers
Posted at 3:14 PM, Feb 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-09 18:18:37-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A group of Florida youth headed to the state Capitol this month seeking passage of a bill that empowers foster children to know their rights.

They say they are on a mission to change the lives of children in foster care.

Sophia Coffey, 19, with the Florida Youth SHINE Palm Beach chapter said she spent time in foster care.

"I went into the care at age 16, and I exited care at the age of 18. Within those two years, I was in a total of six different placements," Coffey said. "They say that it takes a village to raise a child, but when you enter care it feels like your whole village was just burned down."

Sophia Coffey, Florida Youth SHINE
Sophia Coffey speaks about what the organization hopes to achieve with a Foster Care Bill of Rights.

The peer-oriented nonprofit focuses on teaching foster children their rights.

Her friend, Tee Lamore, 21, who is also part of the chapter, spent time in foster care.

"I was in foster care when I was six. I was adopted at 15. It was a failed adoption, so I was homeless at 18," Lamore said. "I didn't know that I didn't have the right to not be abused. I didn't know that I had the right to have my money, certain things, I just didn't know."

Florida Youth SHINE recently traveled to Tallahassee to speak about the rights of foster children.

Tee Lamore, Florida Youth SHINE Palm
Tee Lamore is among the former foster children advocating for the bill.

While at the Capitol, the group spoke with lawmakers and members of the Department of Children and Families.

"We went there to speak with the legislators about a bill that we introduced, which is the Foster Care Bill of Rights, which would allow foster children to know their rights," Coffey said. "Because you have no way of knowing your rights were violated if you don't know what your rights are."

The group's two bills, SB 792 and HB 563, are currently being reviewed by state lawmakers.

Florida Youth SHINE visits Capitol hill lawmakers in Tallahassee, February 2022
Florida Youth SHINE visited with lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Tallahassee this month.

"We got a lot of co-sponsors for our bill, amazingly," Coffey said. "Sadly it hasn't been seen by any committees yet."

However, the group said they are not giving up.

"I'm using my trauma and turning it into triumph like I'm saving current and future foster kids so that they don't have to endure the pain that I've endured," Lamore said. "It just makes me feel like such a great advocate."