Kayla Eckerman, 24 years old, spent 9 years in the State of Iowa’s Child Welfare system.

Kayla entered foster care at 2 years old and again at age 14. During her time in care, she experienced kinship care, foster homes, adoption, and residential & shelter placements. Despite attending eight different high schools, Kayla graduated on time and attended college and earned an Associate’s Degree in Occupational Therapy and became a Board Certified and licensed Occupational Therapy Assistant. She currently works as the Youth and Family Programs Coordinator at a local YMCA, where she directly oversees school-age programming.

A dedicated advocate for former foster youth, Kayla serves on Annie E Casey Foundation’s Young Leaders Policy Council and completed the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative’s Youth Leadership Institute in 2015 and again as a Pod Leader in 2018. Kayla is a Young Fellow with the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. She serves as a National Youth In Transition Database (NYTD) Reviewer, contracted with the US Children’s Bureau and is a member of Iowa’s Insights Advisory Board, Iowa’s Child Protection Council, and Citizens Review Board and the Ottumwa Leadership Academy Class of 2018, a local leadership program for prominent community leaders. Kayla is also a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) to three teenagers in the foster care system in her community.

Kayla hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree and continue to work in the nonprofit field. Her dream is to work for a clinic that provides occupational therapy services to youth who have lived through traumas.

When she is not working or volunteering, she enjoys working out, reading, binge-watching shows on Hulu, writing and traveling. She has been to 8 countries and 33 states and plans to travel abroad at least once a year and make it to all 50 states by the age of 30.

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