Haley Kuehl spent 6 years in Minnesota's foster care system.

Haley Kuehl has learned the importance of standing up for what you believe in, and not backing down. This determination to be heard has made all the difference for her, and for many other foster youth who have benefited from her courage. Haley has been a force on the Minnesota Youth Leadership Council. She has participated in bake sale fund-raisers, collected a grant to buy luggage for incoming foster children. Haley helped organize rallies at the state capitol in St. Paul, and spoke with legislators about the need to raise awareness and support for foster care. When Haley was 17, she wrote to the Director of Social Services in Douglas County, explaining her need to be allowed a vehicle while in foster care.

He not only agreed to her request, but as a result of her thoughtful and clearly persuasive letter, all foster youths in Douglas County with a driver’s license are allowed to have an automobile if they desire. She wasn’t done advocating for her rights, however. Before leaving for college Haley again wrote to Social Services, asking to use her extended foster care benefits at the University of North Dakota where she would be starting her freshman year. She was denied. Haley knew that she had legitimate and legal rights to those benefits and petitioned Douglas County to reinstate the benefits. Social Services finally agreed, and paid her Fall semester room and board.

Her persistence, and determination paid off again. Haley was first placed in foster care when she was 11. After only a week she was returned to her parents. When they divorced a year later, Haley went to live with her mom, who suffered from chemical dependency and unhealthy relationships with men. One of her mom’s boyfriends beat Haley severely and when the police arrived they placed her and her sister with the foster family she currently lives with. Unfortunately, the County decided after a year to return the girls to their father.

It proved to be a very bad situation, with almost constant fighting between Haley and her dad. It took a huge fight, and the intervention of the police, and another stay in a different foster home to reunite Haley and her sister with their foster mom where they reside now. Turns out that she had been fighting the system nonstop since the girls had left to get them back in her care.

Haley knows it is vitally important that young people in foster care have an opportunity to improve the foster care system because, “Most kids in the system are afraid to speak up and say what they believe, or fight for what they deserve. I know going into foster care is scary, and so hard to adapt to. But I feel like if we have knowledge on what foster care is all about, and even helping social workers understand some of the emotions we are going through, maybe the system could have more of a friendly, inviting feel to it. Everyone deserves their rights.”

Team(s) or Cohort(s)
2013 Outstanding Young Leaders