Achieving Maximum Potential program youths and counselors met Thursday with State Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge, at Iowa Central Community College East Campus.
Beall addressed AMP's concerns ahead of their visit to the state Legislature on Jan. 27.
"We have 14 items on our legislative agenda, and I wanted Daryl to come tonight," Maria Weydert, Fort Dodge AMP council facilitator, said. "We wanted the kids to talk to him about some of those agenda issues, and get their questions answered."
AMP is a program for displaced youths ages 13 and over.
"There are 13 councils in Iowa, and it's for kids placed out of the home. Residential, shelter, foster care, kinship care," Weydert said. "It's really for advocacy, support, leadership, social skills. We do a lot of stuff with them."
The groups requested that the term "delinquent," used as a descriptor for youths staying at the Toledo Juvenile Home and State Training School in Eldora, be changed to something for appropriate so they're not rejected by programs such as Job Corps.
"It does have that connotation of not going to rehabilitate or change," Weydert explained to Beall.
Beall said he supported the request by AMP.
"The future of the Toledo Juvenile Home is kind of in question right now," he said. "The governor wants to close it, but the Legislature appropriated money to keep it open."
The AMP youths also requested that relatives be considered for placement, and offered financial, medical and other system supports equal to those offered to non-relative families. AMP asked also that subsidized guardianship be funded as a permanency option for youth.
"The money ought to follow the child," Beall said.
AMP requested faculty and support staff be formally trained in anti-bullying information, including LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) information.
"I introduced legislation five or six years ago on anti-bullying. I'm sure many of you have been bullied," Beall said. "Bullying does happen. It's led to suicides, in social media. This is something I have zero tolerance for, is bullying. We are taking your recommendation on this very seriously."
Weydert said these issues and others are important to AMP and its youths.
"I like to see these guys reach their full potential, and if they don't have the resources to do so, they can't," she said. "We want laws changed so they can."
Beall applauded AMP for representing themselves and bringing their concerns before the Legislature.
"It's pretty easy to say no, but when we see faces, and those faces have names, and I know some of those people ... it makes it a lot tougher, frankly, to say no," he said. "It's really about people."