The 14th Child Initiative

The Regis Little Taskforce has released its recommended improvements for the care of foster youth with disabilities who are aging out of the system.

Due to a string of unfortunate circumstances and poor personal choices, former foster youth, Regis Little, was stabbed to death in July, 2009 – just one month before his 19th birthday. Little was the 14th homicide victim in Orange County in that year. Following his death, Family Services of Metro Orlando joined with both the Florida Department of Children and Families and City of Life Foundation to assemble a taskforce in his name. The group was charged with developing tactile ways to improve services for youth with disabilities as they age out of foster care. Now, 10 months later, the taskforce has developed several new directions.

The 14th Child Initiative will be a series of progressive changes to the foster care system which will pave the way for new levels of improved care. The recommendations of the taskforce include:

1. Each region statewide should identify a “champion” who will work from within the system on behalf of foster youth transitioning out of foster care, especially advocating for those with developmental disabilities.
2. Barriers to use of guardianship and guardian advocacy for young adults with disabilities formerly in foster care should be dismantled, or workarounds developed.
3. Youth should be involved as early and as often as possible in decision-making and long-term planning for their transition to adulthood.
4. A statewide approach to link foster youth to positive and permanent known and reliable adults should be developed – whether this occurs through mentorship or found family connections.
5. Methods, policies and practices should be developed to enable and facilitate a streamlined interagency sharing of foster children’s educational, healthcare and therapeutic services information for the benefit of the child. This will allow for easier sharing of information by professionals when a child moves placements, changes schools or encounters other common obstacles.
6. A statewide audit of Child Resource Records should be completed.

To follow the release of the taskforce findings, the Orlando Sentinel produced a two-day series on foster care in Florida entitled “Fixing Foster Care”.

The first-day story examined the life story of Regis Little in detail, with the aim to expose the combination of tragic choices which lead to his death.

The second-day story celebrated the positive choices and attitude of Kamesha Grant, whose zeal for life touches everyone she meets, despite less-than-idea circumstances.

The positive and potentially life-saving impact of this initiative and the resulting exposure it generates will honor the memory of Regis and provide a lasting legacy of hope to youth like him.

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