Sitting on the sidelines has never been my strong suit. Long before I was elected to represent Colorado state House District 29, and even before I became an attorney, I have been harnessing my energy to advocate on behalf of others.
In fact, the first “clients” I ever represented were the girls at recess who wanted to play in the all-boys soccer games. I found that standing up for others can cause lasting change – by speaking up, all the kids at school were able to play soccer together.
From the playground to law school to starting my own firm and to now representing my district at the Capitol, my passion for activism has never waned. Being a voice for the voiceless has been my driving passion for many years. It’s what drove me to dedicate my career to advocating for those who are often the most vulnerable members of society: children.
In addition to my role as a legislator, I practice in the areas of juvenile and family law and have spent years speaking up for children who are experiencing hardships that many of us will never know and can’t even imagine.
I plan to use what I’ve learned through that work to improve Colorado’s laws and to improve the lives of the people I represent, both in the courtroom and at the Capitol. Their stories drive me.
I remember working with a teenager who had to be removed from her father’s custody for her own protection. She, like so many other abused children, was placed into the foster care system.
Survivors of these kinds of circumstances are often labeled “broken” or “troubled” or “lost causes.” These labels are unfair and untrue: a child’s past does not have to be their destiny. Foster youth can thrive and lead wonderful, impactful lives if they are given the opportunity and the care they need.
After being placed into state custody, this particular teenager ended up in a wonderful home with a family who nurtured her and encouraged her to pursue her dreams. She is now in college on a basketball scholarship, and her adoptive parents are always there to cheer for her, both on the court and off.
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I’ve been a part of countless cases like hers, but I’ve also seen far too many cases that haven’t had happy endings. I’ve seen firsthand what a difference having an advocate can make. That’s why I ran for office: I knew that I could help countless families and make lasting change.
I’ve introduced House Bill 1094, the Foster Youth in Transition Program measure, with the hope of doing just that. A hearing on the bill before the House Public & Behavioral Health & Human Services Committee is scheduled for March 16.
Too many of Colorado’s foster kids slip through the cracks because they don’t have adequate support in the transition from being a ward of the state to being on their own for the first time in their lives. The program outlined in my bill would provide services to make that life-changing transition easier.
If enacted, HB 1094 will extend child welfare benefits for foster youth between 18 and 21 years old who plan on pursuing job training or furthering their education.
The bill will also require counties to offer social services to foster youth, including housing assistance, Medicaid enrollment casework, and general transitional assistance to ensure the health and economic safety of the foster youth.
It would provide resources to make the emancipation process smoother, and would also stipulate that foster youth are entitled to an attorney provided by the county in emancipation proceedings.
Being an advocate for those who don’t have a voice is a privilege that I don’t take lightly. I am proud to be working on this bill with the help of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who are dedicated to ensuring that future generations have the means to thrive despite the hardships they’ve been through.
As a state representative, I’m committed to working as hard as I can to represent the voices that often go unheard and will continue to work on legislation that will benefit all Coloradans.
Lindsey Daugherty, a lawyer and an Arvada Democrat, was elected in November to represent District 29 in the Colorado House of Representatives, including Arvada, Standley Lake and western Westminster.
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