FosterClub’s Outstanding Young Leader of 2013 credits her foster mom for her national recognition. Twenty-year-old Haley Kuehl, a Douglas County foster youth since age 11, drew the attention of FosterClub for her leadership, actions and commitment to improve foster care programming.
Kuehl’s “amazing foster mom” championed Kuehl to advocate for services and extend her own care before she aged out of the foster care system. “She's been there for me. Anything I do, I want to make her proud and happy,” said Kuehl, who plans to become a pediatric nurse. Her experience, like many foster youth, includes multiple placements and attempts to reunite her and her sister with their birth parents. Kuehl's determination and courage has made a difference for her and others.
Kuehl raised funds, secured a grant to buy luggage for incoming foster children and helped organize rallies at the Minnesota Capitol. She has spoken with legislators about the need to support youth aging out of foster care, and raised awareness of their complex and unique needs. She also served for more than four years on the Willmar Minnesota Youth Leadership Council, one of four in the state that advises the Minnesota Department of Human Services on developing policies that affect children in the foster care system.
After graduating from high school, Kuehl requested to remain in foster care and live in a supervised independent living setting—a dorm room at the University of North Dakota, where she enrolled her freshman year. When the county denied her request because of the out-of-state setting, Kuehl appealed the decision and won.
Kuehl’s foster care status also qualified her to receive help with her college expenses from the department’s Education Training Voucher program. “I work and save money for school. [Education and Training Vouchers] make college a feasible option for me. It has helped me be financially stable and stay independent,” said Kuehl.
“In the foster care system there are a lot of resources. Even if you come from a bad situation, you can be successful,” reflects Kuehl. “Foster families are important. Together, we make it work.”
Each year FosterClub recognizes 100 young leaders nationwide who give back to their communities and improve the foster care system.
More information about Minnesota's foster care programs and initiatives can be found on the department's website.