Two young women have been selected to serve as the voice of Indiana’s youth in foster care and social services and will be the newest — and youngest — members of the Commission on Improving the Status of Children Indiana.
Dejuna Rodriguez and Stephaney Knight, both 22, were appointed to the commission on Aug. 9 Their appointments are a fruit of House Enrolled Act 1537, authored by commission member Rep. Dale DeVon, R-Granger.
Members of the commission and the Indiana General Assembly agreed that new voices should be added to the conversation that could effectively advocate for Indiana’s youth.
Under HEA 1537, youth members must between 18 and 30 years old and have been served as children by the Department of Child Services, the Family and Social Services Administration, the Department of Correction or a juvenile probation department.
“I’m really proud of the progress we have made as a state in the past year on youth engagement,” Rodriguez said. “We are leading by example. I feel like we are going to be a catalyst for other states.”
Rodriguez and Knight, college students who applied and interviewed for the new positions, both grew up and aged out of the foster care system at 13 and 14, respectively. Knight, who said she went through multiple types of placements, has since been adopted as an adult.
“A lot of people gave up on me; I gave up on myself multiple times. But looking back I see the resilience I developed,” Knight said. “I have always been interested in the different policies, what makes the systems run. I would like to help get answers for youth currently in care.”
The commission said that adding youth members addresses its overarching principle of having a “Youth and Family Voice.” The women’s involvement will be “vital to creating and implementing effective policies in the future.”
“I’m excited to welcome these new voices to the table and add their perspectives to our conversations about public policy for children and families,” John Hammond, commission chair, said in a statement. “The Commission always strives to get to the root of issues, and having young people at the table will help us to do that even better.”
The appointment of Rodriguez and Knight brings the total number of voting commission members to 19. They will both serve two-year terms.