Read Amnoni’s Inspiring Story…and Many More in CCAI’s 2014 Annual Report!

As Featured in CCAI’s 2014 Annual Report.

Amnoni_CCAIAnnualReport2014Q & A with Amnoni Myers, 2014 Foster Youth Intern

Click Here to read CCAI’s 2014 Annual Report!

Describe your time in foster  care.

I became a ward of the state the day I was born, addicted to drugs and abandoned in the hospital as a result of my parents’ involvement with drugs, criminal activity and poverty. I encountered trauma at a very young age resulting from various types of abuse and neglect. Not being raised by my biological parents was extremely difficult as I did not have a natural support system throughout my life. At the age of 10, I was reunified with my mother but after two short years, my mother voluntarily returned my siblings and me back to the state without notice. I was placed in foster homes and continuously moved around from home to home until the age of 18. When I aged out of the foster care system, I had little support and stability and concluded that foster parents seemed more interested in the economic benefits of caring for me, rather than loving me as if I was one of their own.

Describe your experience with the Foster  Youth Internship Program.

Every summer, the Foster Youth Internship Program™ provides young adults like me an Amnoniopportunity to give perspective and voice to the challenges that foster youth face by sharing our personal experiences within the system to Members of Congress and their staff. I was often told that my experiences would never be used for good, but being an “FYI” with CCAI changed that. As a Foster Youth Intern, I interned last summer for Senator Grassley. When he highlighted my life story on the U.S. Senate Floor, I quickly realized that my story had significance and understood that Congress does care.

My experience on Capitol Hill through CCAI’s Foster Youth Internship Program™ was maximized because I had the opportunity to not only intern on Capitol Hill, but to write a report on federal child welfare policy and brief  both Congress and the White House Domestic Policy Council on issues that I care deeply about. Never in my life did I imagine I would be afforded an opportunity such as this. CCAI helped me grow in my confidence and, even today, the caring CCAI staff gently push me to reach my potential, both personally and professionally. I am really thankful I decided to intern with CCAI, because they opened a window of hope for me and so many others.

What impact do you think you have made for children and youth currently in the foster care system through CCAI’s Foster Youth Internship Program™?

You never really know the impact you have on a person, place or even an entire system in the moment. Last summer was all about planting seeds that will take shape and grow for the next generation of foster youth. You don’t always see change happen immediately, but if you continue to fight for justice and persevere, transformation happens.

Just recently, I met two young girls who are in the foster care system. After sharing my story and the work I did this summer with CCAI, they immediately thanked me for fighting for them. Conversations like this are when I realize the work I was doing as a Foster Youth Intern made a difference. Striving to make an impact on someone’s life goes far beyond just doing what seems good. It is doing good in the face of adversity and having the perspective that one day it will produce results, even if you can’t see it right away.

Amnoni at Angels in Adoption_CCAIAnnualReport2014

What are you currently up to?

I recently began an internship at the White House with the Domestic Policy Council on Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity. This would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of CCAI’s staff and the opportunity to brief this same office during the Foster Youth Internship Program™. After completing the FYI Program last summer I was really nervous and anxious about pursuing the White House internship. The CCAI staff were some of my biggest cheerleaders through the application process. CCAI has become more than a place I interned with. They have become my family. The Foster Youth Internship Program™ helped instill confidence in me, and has given me the tools necessary to continue on the journey of advocating for foster youth and helping to raise up the next generation of leaders.

Click Here to read more of CCAI’s 2014 Annual Report!

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Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute Names New Director of Policy

PRESS RELEASE – APRIL 1, 2015

For more information contact Allison Coble at allison@ccainstitute.org or 202-544-8500

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CONGRESSIONAL COALITION ON ADOPTION INSTITUTE NAMES CHRISTEN GLICKMAN AS NEW DIRECTOR OF POLICY TO LEAD ORGANIZATION’S DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL POLICY EFFORTS

 WASHINGTON, DC, April 1, 2015 – The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI), partnered nonprofit to the Congressional Coalition on Adoption (CCA), is pleased to welcome Christen Krzywonski Glickman as the organization’s Director of Policy. She will lead CCAI’s government relations, education and advocacy strategies in domestic and international child welfare, permanency and adoption policy.

 “My primary goal is to expand CCAI’s impact among policymakers and the child welfare community by working together on nonpartisan policies to improve the lives of children,” said Christen Glickman, CCAI Director of Policy. “With the stalwart leadership of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Co-Chairs, I am confident that we will continue to eliminate policy barriers that hinder children from finding forever families.”

 Prior to joining CCAI, Glickman most recently consulted independently on childhood trauma, child welfare, and education policy. Christen previously advised Senator Evan Bayh – a former member of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption – on issues affecting children and families, including intercountry adoption. She also served as Legislative Director for Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas when he was a State Representative.

 As part of the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths, Glickman was instrumental in the “Protect Our Kids Act of 2012,” which created the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities. Glickman helped prosecutors across the country with difficult child maltreatment cases and assisted Members of Congress with legislative analysis on various child maltreatment topics as Staff Attorney for the National District Attorneys Association’s National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse.

 “Christen is a longtime friend of CCAI since her days working with Senator Evan Bayh. She continued to stay involved in our work as a volunteer year after year. Her commitment to CCAI is a tremendous gift, and we are honored that she has joined our team. Christen’s policy analysis expertise and collaborative approach to improving children’s policy are extraordinary,” said Becky Weichhand, CCAI’s Executive Director.

 Glickman was also a Graduate Public Interest Fellow at the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law, and earned her J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center, where she represented children involved with abuse and neglect and juvenile delinquency cases and was awarded for her pro bono work. Glickman is licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia and Texas.

 For fourteen years, CCAI has been an established resource for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, the United States Congress’ caucus on adoption and permanency for children. The CCA is the largest bicameral, bipartisan Congressional Member organization and works to engage Members of Congress on issues pertaining to children in need of permanency, and domestic and international child welfare, as well as to advocate for every child’s right to a safe, stable and loving family. CCAI works to provide federal policymakers with the information and resources needed to make the dream of a family a reality for every child through its core programs, including the Angels in Adoption™ Program, the Foster Youth Internship Program™ and 20/20 Vision Delegations.

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 The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising awareness about the millions of children around the world in need of permanent, safe, and loving homes and to eliminating the barriers that hinder these children from realizing their basic right of a family.

 For more information or to learn more about the work of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, visit www.ccainstitute.org or contact Allison Coble at allison@ccainstitute.org or 202.544.8500.

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Congressional Coalition on Adoption Names New Co-Chairs for the 114th Congress

PRESS RELEASE – MARCH 24, 2015

For more information contact Allison Coble at allison@ccainstitute.org or 202-544-8500

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SENATORS BLUNT (R-MO) AND KLOBUCHAR (D-MN) AND REPRESENTATIVE TRENT FRANKS (R-AZ 08) 

NAMED AS ADOPTION COALITION CO-CHAIRS FOR THE 114TH CONGRESS

 WASHINGTON, DC, March 24, 2015 – The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI), in partnership with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption (CCA), is pleased to welcome three new CCA Co-Chairs for the 114th Congress today: Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Representative Trent Franks of Arizona.

The CCA is the largest bicameral, bipartisan Congressional Member organization and works to engage Members of Congress on issues pertaining to children in need of permanency, children in the foster care system, and domestic and international child welfare, as well as to advocate for every child’s right to a safe, stable and loving family. The role of the Co-Chairs is to lead and actively engage their colleagues in Congress and draft and support federal policies that place children in families.

Senator Blunt has served as a member of the CCAI Advisory Council since 2009. He has been a vocal opponent of international bans on U.S. adoptions, and he successfully worked with his colleagues to pass bipartisan resolutions expressing concern regarding adoption suspensions in Russia and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 112th and 113th Congresses. In 2015, Senators Blunt and Klobuchar reintroduced the “Supporting Adoptive Families Act” to help provide families and children with pre- and post-adoption support services. He co-sponsored the “Uninterrupted Scholars Act,” which was signed into law in 2013 to make school transitions smoother for children in foster care. Senator Blunt also helped introduce the “Accuracy for Adoptees Act,” a law that enables families adopting abroad to correct errors on their children’s birth certificates.

“Every day, families in Missouri and nationwide provide loving and safe homes to children in need through adoption. I’m proud to serve as a Co-Chair of this important caucus and I’ll continue my efforts to make it easier for families to provide children the safe, loving home they deserve,” Senator Blunt stated.

Senator Klobuchar is a strong advocate for adoptive families and children. She helped families who adopt abroad correct errors to birth certificates through the Accuracy for Adoptees Act, which was signed into law in January 2014. She also led the International Adoption Simplification Act, which was signed into law in November 2010, to help siblings stay together during an international adoption. This Congress, she has reintroduced the bipartisan Supporting Adoptive Families Act to help provide pre- and post-adoption support services to adoptive families.

Senator Klobuchar remarked, “American families open their homes and hearts to adopt children from their own communities and around the world. I have long worked to advocate for these loving families, and through my new leadership role in this bipartisan caucus, I intend to build upon my work to eliminate red tape in the adoption process and help keep adoptive families strong.”

 Congressman Franks has a long history of involvement in issues pertaining to vulnerable children, including serving in the Arizona Legislature as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Child Protection and Family Preservation where he was a prime sponsor of nationally recognized bills designed to protect children and the family, including the “Child Obscenity and Pornography Bill” and the “Dangerous Crimes Against Children Bill” which gave Arizona some of the strongest child protection laws in the nation. He also served as the Director of the Governor’s office for children and served as Chairman of the Inter-Agency Study Committee on Children and AIDS.

Congressman Franks stated, “Nothing defines a nation more than how it treats its most vulnerable. The protection of children have been a foremost priority for me since the beginning of my political career over three decades ago, and over the past several years I have been honored to work with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption (CCA) and CCAI to ensure there is a pathway to permanency for every child in need of a family. Today I am incredibly excited to step into the role of co-chairing the CCA, and look forward to joining with my fellow co-chairs on the Adoption Coalition in working to elevate the right of every child to know the love, protection and security of a forever family.”

 The Co-Chairs and CCA are supported by CCAI, a non-profit institute dedicated to raising awareness about children in need of families both domestically and internationally and to eliminating the policy barriers that hinder children from finding their forever families.

“For the past several years, Senators Blunt and Klobuchar and Representative Franks have each faithfully demonstrated individual passion for child welfare, commitment to the belief that children belong in families, as well as a reputation for bipartisan collaboration on these efforts in the United States Congress. We could not be more delighted that they are stepping collectively into the historic role of leading this premier congressional caucus committed to policies that place children in families,” commented Becky Weichhand, Executive Director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Over the last 25 years, CCA Members have led Congress in the passage of legislation that has dramatically improved the lives of children and families including the “The Adoption and Safe Families Act,” the “John Chafee Foster Care Independence Act,” the “Promoting Safe and Stable Families Act,” the “Hope for Children Act,” the “Intercountry Adoption Act,” the “Fostering Connections and Increasing Adoptions Act,” and the “Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act.”

By joining the CCA, Members of Congress have the opportunity to participate in programs and events throughout the year that allow them to interact with vulnerable children and youth, the families that care for them, and subject matter experts to hear the stories of the challenges and opportunities they experience and to strengthen federal policy with this information.

Today there are over 400,000 children in foster care, and over 100,000 of these are eligible for adoption, waiting for families to call their own. Children living in orphanages globally are estimated conservatively at eight million, with unknown numbers living on the streets.

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 The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising awareness about the millions of children around the world in need of permanent, safe, and loving homes and to eliminating the barriers that hinder these children from realizing their basic right of a family.

For more information or to learn more about the work of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, visit www.ccainstitute.org or contact Allison Coble at allison@ccainstitute.org or 202.544.8500.

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Congressional Coalition On Adoption Institute Names New Executive Director

MEDIA ADVISORY – DECEMBER 4, 2014 
For more information contact Allison Coble at allison@ccainstitute.org or 202-544-8500

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CONGRESSIONAL COALITION ON ADOPTION INSTITUTE NAMES NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

 Becky Weichhand will lead the organization effective immediately

WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 4, 2014 – The Board of Directors of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) announced after meeting today that they have promoted Becky Weichhand to the position of Executive Director.

“We are very excited that Becky will take over the reins at CCAI. Her experience with the organization’s programs as the Director of Policy, coupled with her personal passion and commitment to our mission of placing children in families, are an asset to CCAI as the organization continues to grow,” said Jack Gerard, CCAI Board Chairman and President and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute. “The Board is thrilled to have her at the helm of the organization moving forward.”

Prior to this role, Becky served since 2009 as CCAI’s Director of Policy, leading the organization in its congressional engagement and advocacy efforts surrounding adoption and permanency for children. She coordinated congressional delegations to Los Angeles, Columbus, the United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Cambodia, Vietnam, South Korea and Haiti and managed The Way Forward Project which focused on the need for family-based care of children in six African nations. She carries expertise in both domestic and global child welfare policy into her role as Executive Director. Becky holds a JD from Regent University and is a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

 “What a tremendous honor to be handed the torch. I am deeply committed to our mission of raising awareness of the millions of children around the world who are living outside of families,” Becky said. “I look forward to leading the organization and continuing our commitment to bring to our nation’s leaders the voices of children and young people who do not yet know the love and support of a forever family.”

 For thirteen years, CCAI has been an established resource for the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Coalition on Adoption, the United States Congress’ caucus on adoption and permanency for children. CCAI works to provide federal policymakers with the information and resources needed to make the dream of a family a reality for every child through its core programs, including Angels in Adoption, the Foster Youth Internship and 20/20 Vision Delegations.

 CCAI is governed by a Board of Directors whose members include Jack Gerard of the American Petroleum Institute, Elmer Doty of Accudyne, Tracy Schar of Comstock Homebuilding, Mayor Laura Wheat of Westlake, Texas,  Russ Sullivan of McquireWoods Consulting, and Brad and Tandy Bondi of Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft LLP and Alcade and Fay LLP, respectively.

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The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising awareness about the millions of children around the world in need of permanent, safe, and loving homes and to eliminating the barriers that hinder these children from realizing their basic right of a family.

 For more information or to learn more about the work of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, visit www.ccainstitute.org or contact Allison Coble at allison@ccainstitute.org or 202.544.8500.

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EIGHT siblings adopted into ONE loving family

A National Adoption Day Story

By: Melissa Groves

This National Adoption Month is a celebration of sibling adoptions. We are excited to share with you the sweet story of one of our Angels in Adoption – the Groves Family – and how National Adoption Day and sibling adoptions have become a part of their amazing foster care and adoption story.

If someone would have told me 14 years ago that I would meet my soul mate on a silly little telephone dating service and we’d go on to have NINE children I probably would have laughed out loud right before fainting from shock. You see, all my experiences as a single mom with my then four-year-old daughter lead me to hope for another child, eventually, but EIGHT more, not very likely.

Scott and I met on a Thursday, he proposed after six months and just a year later we were saying “I do!” Right away we discussed expanding our family. Unfortunately as it should happen, doctors soon informed us that the possibility of our conceiving naturally was also very unlikely.  To say I was heartbroken would be an understatement. I struggled to understand, I cried and prayed every night asking…no, BEGGING God to PLEASE allow me to give my husband a child and daughter a sibling. But it seemed no matter how hard I prayed, my prayers went unanswered.

After returning home from a trip to visit family, I couldn’t stop thinking about a conversation I had had with my aunt who happened to be a foster parent.  They had just been placed with a beautiful baby girl they would soon be adopting. Adoption…hmmm…could we? We had so many questions that it was all so very overwhelming. We spent any free time researching adoption options and praying for guidance though I think we already knew where our hearts were being called.

In December 2003, we decided that foster care would be the best match for our small family. It not only would allow us to give back to our community by creating a safe place for children but it also meant the opportunity to have another child in our home and if it lead to adoption…we couldn’t wait!

In January of 2004 we started our foster parent training for ten weeks! At times I wondered if all the red tape and hoops were worth it or if we’d ever get through the classes as the weeks seemed to drag. However, I could feel the light at the end of the tunnel.  We finished our classes, received our license, and on Good Friday we received our first call from DHS. My heart skipped a beat…it was really happening! “There is a sibling group of 5 but we need emergency placement of the younger 2 boys,” the voice on the other end of the phone said. WAIT, WHAT?! TWO boys?! But we said only ONE! Instantly my excitement faded to disappointment (remember I was NEW to all this).

Due to the holiday we cautiously agreed to give it a try and into our lives stepped two of the cutest little boys we’d ever met. Noah (age 3) and his little brother Chase (age 22 months). Almost instantaneously these two seem to capture our hearts, and it wasn’t very long before I knew that if the chance arose I wanted to have them in our lives forever. Perhaps it was fate, perhaps it was divine intervention, I don’t know, but what I do know was that the boys’ ‘short’ stay with us turned into adoption.

Now in a perfect world, I could probably have ended my story right there; a story book ending with a “and they lived happily ever after” as a closing comment, but as I’m sure you’re aware, ours is not a perfect world. We decided that although we were done adopting, the need was so great; we would continue offering foster care and emergency placements. More and more we found our lives being enriched and hearts being captured by each of the young charges that we were blessed to have come to our home.

This was a very hectic time in our lives, yet I inwardly loved the excitement that these changes brought. Within weeks of the legal adoption of our sons, we received a phone call from their previous case worker informing us of a new development in their birth family: the imminent arrival of a new brother and an immediate need for a foster placement upon his birth. There was no question, how could I deny my sons and this new child the possibility of being together? So after less than a year, our family grew yet again with the addition of Baby Garrett.  Then, just eleven months later we were surprised with another call concerning the arrival of another newborn brother, Hayden. Born with a cleft lip, drug exposed, and premature, this little guy had a rough road ahead, but he was as much ours as our other boys; of course we’d accept. And on National Adoption Day they officially became a part of our family!

I have to admit that it is at this stage of the game, people started to question my sanity, and there were many times I too was amazed and overwhelmed at the twist and turns that our life had begun to take. But there was something within me that truly felt these children needed to be kept together. I have to use this “heartfelt” assurance as my excuse for adopting four-month-old Ashton the following year and AGAIN another newborn brother Curran in May 2009. We planned to finalize their adoptions on National Adoption Day that same year and had even been asked by local news station to be a featured family. We were so excited! Much to our surprise after posting our news story online we were contacted by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who had just heard our story and wanted to nominate us as Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) Angels in Adoption awardees. What an incredible honor!

Three years passed, we were settled, and life was going well. Then one day I received an unexpected Facebook message from the boys’ birth mom asking if we’d consider adopting her unborn baby. We had every reason to say no—not enough money, not enough time, etc. but somehow things seemed to fall into place and the following June we found ourselves in a hospital waiting room awaiting the arrival of our son, Bryer. In October 2013 our soon-to-be seventh son, Zayn, was born premature, drug exposed, and diagnosed with Down syndrome. It’s been a little over a year now, and I’m truly amazed and in awe at the pure joy this little boy brings to our family. He teaches us patience and unconditional love daily and I can’t imagine life without him.

For us, adoption was initially just a means to complete our family when having a biological child seemed impossible. But, it has become so much more to us. It has opened our eyes, widened the horizons of our family, enriched all of our lives, and brought us so much love and happiness. Our family is complete through adoption. Adoption has been such a gift and when wrapped in a special day such as National Adoption Day, an adoption just seems that much more meaningful, like you’re part of something far bigger than yourself or your own little family.  National Adoption Day for us, allows us the chance to celebrate becoming a family, it also gives us the opportunity to share our story and hopefully spread awareness of the many other children currently available for adoption, waiting for their forever families.

This year we are excited to share that we will once again be taking an active part in National Adoption Day as we finalize and celebrate little Zayn officially becoming our son. I can’t think of a better way to finish growing the Groves family. If there is anyone reading this and considering adoption, please know that all your efforts and all the heartache will be worth it the first time your little one calls you “Mommy/Daddy.” Don’t give up!

Groves kids

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Inside Look at Angels In Adoption (Photo Essay)

CCAI’s Angels in Adoption™ Program consists of three days of event in Washington, D.C. where those who have made a difference in the lives of children through adoption or foster care are celebrated by Members of Congress. Here are some of the highlights of the 2014 Angels in Adoption™ Program!

Our Angels were honored at a Congressional Pin Ceremony. Below, the Dille family is receiving their pin from Senator Vitter.

Each of our Angels were honored at a Congressional Pin Ceremony. Above, the Dille family receives their specially designed Angels in Adoption pin and certificate from Senator David Vitter (R-LA).

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Here, Senator John Boozman (R-AR) honors his Angels in Adoption nominees, the Creekside Center for Women at the Senate Pin Ceremony.

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CCAI Advisory Member, Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA), poses for a photo with the MacConnell family.

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National Angel in Adoption Honorees, Dr. Jennifer Arnold and Bill Klein of TLC’s The Little Couple, and Debra Steigerwaldt Waller, CEO of Jockey International and Paul Singer Award winner, met with Senators Landrieu (D-LA) and Grassley (R-IA) and CCAI’s Interim Executive Director Becky Weichhand on Wednesday to discuss adoption policy.

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Dr. Jennifer Arnold and Bill Klein are presented their Angels in Adoption pins from Senator Landrieu and CCAI Board Chair man, Jack Gerard.

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On the red carpet at the Angels in Adoption Gala!

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Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) joins the honorees on the red carpet with his family and adopted granddaughter.

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The gala began with a performance by Dove Award nominated singer and songwriter, Sara Groves.

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The atrium of the Ronald Reagan Building was transformed the evening of the gala.

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Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

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CCAI’s 2014 Foster Youth Intern, Amnoni Myers, received a standing ovation from the audience.

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Adoptive father Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) presents Debra Steigerwaldt Waller of Jockey International with the Paul Singer Award.

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Dr. Jennifer Arnold and Bill Klein’s acceptance speech.

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The Little Couple’s fans taking photos.

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CCAI’s staff are big fans of Jen and Bill and their wonderful family.

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From Foster Care to Capitol Hill

2014 Foster Youth Intern, Amnoni Myers, so graciously shared her story of survival at the recent Angels in Adoption gala. Watch her video and read her speech below!

Good evening everyone. It’s an honor to be here with all of you tonight. This is an opportunity that I would have never imagined a few years ago. But it’s because of Angels like you in my life that made it possible.

Life was not easy growing up. My mother abandoned me at birth and trauma became the theme that impacted my life early. I was taken in by a caregiver who neglected to feed and properly care for me. By the time I was six years old I experienced sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and physical violence. Already vulnerable, I entered into state care where I was separated from my siblings. My sense of family and identity was robbed. During my time in care, I moved around 5 times, and foster mothers seemed more interested in the economic benefits of caring for me than unconditionally loving and treating me like I was their own.

Sadly my story isn’t so unique. Thousands of children experience these types of obstacles each day but the uniqueness of my story is—I survived. Though survival wasn’t always easy, I thank God for placing people in my life then I needed it most because strangers became my family. Strange, right? But if it wasn’t for those who decided to invest in me, I wouldn’t be here today.

I would also like to credit my story of survival to my faith in God and to my inner determination and strength to NEVER GIVE UP despite the many odds that were against me. It was during a very critical time when I heard these important words: Never allow your past to dictate your future.

This summer I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in CCAI’s Foster Youth Internship program. This program impacted my life tremendously. As part of this experience, I was able to develop lifelong friendships with people who had been through experiences that were similar to mine.  What I found to be unique about CCAI is that they see potential in every intern that comes through their doors no matter what they have experienced. In my time as an intern I found that my voice finally mattered and was valued. CCAI provided a wealth of opportunities that I was able to experience right at my fingertips!

We went on retreats where we could share our stories with each other, learned how to effectively tell our stories to people we would be working with on Capitol Hill, and spent a weekend at Deep Creek Lake where some of us experienced jet skis, boating, and tubing for the first time. Growing up in the inner city never afforded me these types of opportunities so it felt good to be able to check off so many excursions on my bucket list at once (despite crashing into a tree and falling off the tubes multiple times).

As a Foster Youth Intern, I was assigned to the office of Senator Chuck Grassley. Because the Senator is a leader on foster care issues, I was able to work on projects specifically related to federal child welfare policy and my firsthand perspective was valued in the office because of my journey in the foster care system. My supervisor, Kathy, encouraged me to not only share my perspective with her, but also with the other interns in the office.

The Foster Youth Interns develop a policy report, which we present to policymakers and staff. The CCAI staff spends many long nights helping us refine our recommendations. For my policy recommendations I chose to focus on the need to standardize trauma-informed care training for caregivers and to provide ongoing training in this area. I envision that one day my recommendations will be enacted into law!

Although I was anxious about whether I was equipped to handle the workload of a Congressional Internship, being here gave me the chance to develop a healthier sense of myself. It was people like the staff at CCAI, Senator Chuck Grassley and his staff, my mentor Aisha, and my Sara Start Fund mentor who not only believed in me, but also invested their time in me, loved me, and adopted me into their families.

To tonight’s Angels in Adoption honorees, this is exactly what all of you have done for children like me. You saw something special in them that others didn’t see, and you are making an impact not only in their life but in the lives of future generations to come!

My time here on Capitol Hill has prepared me for my future goals to change and impact policy. I am now participating in a fellowship program in California where I am working with underprivileged youth and their families. Speaking of future goals, I also applied for The White House Internship this summer and I am keeping my fingers crossed that someone in the audience has a connection they can send my way!

I am eager to return to Washington D.C. because I know my work here is not quite finished. CCAI gave me wings so that I could fly, and with the experiences I have gained, I will continue to invest in the lives of children in the same ways that CCAI and all of you have invested in me!

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