Youth Changemaker: Kaysie Getty

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Why I think it is important for Kansas government officials to operate in the light of day, rather than in secret, behind closed doors: 

"Kaysie is an example of what happens when young people are given a voice and the opportunity to participate. Kaysie has accomplished amazing things all while giving back to her peers."

 

- The Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council

Kaysie Getty, 21, is a motivated young adult who has overcome serious odds. She gives back to her community through her work every day.

Kaysie grew up in the foster care system, moving through several placements throughout her adolescence.

Her relationship with the New Jersey Center for Family Services (CFS)—which provides a number of programs for runaway, homeless and neglected youth throughout the state—began at the age of 16, when she first came to their emergency shelter. At first, she stayed only a short time.

On her 18th birthday, she was kicked out of her home and had no where to go. She returned to CFS. There, she learned that if she requested that her child welfare case be left open (past her 18th birthday) by the New Jersey Department of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), she wouldn't have to live on the street.

"It was my only choice," Kaysie says. "If I had closed my case, I would probably be homeless right now. I wouldn't be here."

Over the course of one year, Kaysie transitioned through a number of the Center's assisted living programs, all the time maintaining her determination to become independent. She entered the Center's GrandSlam Supported Transitional Living Program, which provides transitional living living assistance for homeless female youth ages 16-20. She spent her senior year of high school in GrandSlam, which also offers counseling, life and social skills training, and employment and education assistance to get the residents on track for independent and healthy adulthood.

Thriving at GrandSlam, Kaysie completed her senior year of high school, and at age 18 moved into her own apartment supported by the Camden DREAMS program—where she still lives now.

All the while, she has built an impressive resume of strong leadership on behalf of youth in foster care.

While residing in GrandSlam, Kaysie attended the National Network for Youth Symposium in Washington, DC, in 2010.  It was at that this conference where Kaysie was introduced to the possibility of becoming a youth advocate for her peers in foster care. She had the opportunity to share her story with youth from all over the country who grew up in foster care as well as to Members of Congress.

It was at the Symposium that she learned that foster systems in all 50 states are different—and that the strongest potential for change comes from working at the state level.

It didn't take long for Kaysie to put her revelation into action. While still in Washington, Kaysie became a volunteer for the National Runaway Switchboard, an anonymous safeline for youth considering running away from home. Since then, she has attended a number of different conferences around the country. One was the Georgetown Institute Conference in Florida, which provided her with opportunities to network with fellow foster youth, promote the hotline and advocate for assisted living services for youth aging out of foster care—the latter, for Kaysie, was the game-changer.

Kaysie speaks to youth in New Jersey and all over the country about the value of keeping their DCF case open upon turning 18 so they can reap the possible benefits including assisted living, healthcare and education. She is featured on the DCF Office of Adolescent Services video for DCF workers and other providers to show the youth before their 18th birthday.

Recently, Kaysie also made a trip to Capitol Hill and testified at the Senate budget hearings on the value of caring for youth so they can become productive and happy citizens.

When the Center for Family Services created its own Youth Advisory Board (YAB) to give the young people using their services a chance to share their input, Kaysie jumped at the opportunity. She has since served as Vice President and President of the YAB. One of her main initiatives was improving CFS's communications to ensure that it shared key information with youth--and that young people had opportunities to share their ideas and talents.

"As a leader, Kaysie has organized the YAB to become more than the agency ever imagined it to be," says nominator Eileen Henderson, Vice President for the Center For Family Services.

"I have watched Kaysie learn and grow and our services to youth have improved due to her growth and involvement," says Eileen. "Kaysie is the definition of a youth leader. She continues to dedicate herself to finding ways to expand what is available to youth and foster care and the level of services for them."

"I was shocked and excited to be named a 24 Under 24 Youth Changemaker because I can start making even more changes if my voice is heard all over the country!" Kaysie told us.

She is also strongly in favor of a Presidential Youth Council: "I think it is important to have Presidential Youth Council because youth voice could be the key to fixing different situations and issues that occur in today's society," says Kaysie.



 


This profile is one of the Top 24 Under 24 Youth Changemakers, a series hosted by SparkAction and the Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council to recognize young changemakers influencing policy and practice at the local, state and national levels.

The members of the youth-led Campaign chose the 24 youth who are featured in this series, from entries submitted by peers and mentors. Read about the selection process.

We’re always looking for more profiles of young people making a difference, so submit one of your own!