2015 Foster Youth Intern Policy Report Preview: Transition Strategy For Youth Leaving Care and Suicide Prevention Through Trauma-Informed Training and Peer Support Groups

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Twelve current and former foster youth are participating in CCAI’s Foster Youth Internship program, spending their summer interning for Members of Congress on Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, July 28 at a Congressional Briefing, they will use their legislative knowledge combined with their personal experience to educate federal policymakers on opportunities for reform in the U.S. foster care system. Each intern has researched and will present creative policy solutions on a range of topics. For the six days leading up to the briefing, we will provide a preview of two of the interns’ report topics.

Marcia

Marcia Hopkins, Age 26

Internship assignment: Senator Bob Casey (D-PA)

Report focus:  Transition strategy for youth leaving care and redefining the definition of homelessness

Why it’s important to Marcia:Every year in the U.S. approximately 200,000 youth exit care without permanent connections.  Due to the lack of permanent connections and limited resources, youth are further prohibited from securing stability after care, leading to other negative life outcomes like homelessness.”

Brianne

Brianne Lyn Nagamine, Age 20

Internship assignment: Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI)

Report focus: Suicide Prevention Through  Trauma-informed training and peer support groups for youth in foster care

Why it’s important to Brianne: “I experienced multiple forms of trauma and grieved for all the loss in my life. I became depressed and struggled with suicidal thoughts. Foster youth can benefit from peer support groups because it brings other like-minded foster youth together to share their pain, stories and help one another heal from their grief and trauma.”

Be sure to attend the Congressional Briefing on Tuesday, July 28 to learn about Marcia’s and Brianne’s policy recommendations on improving the transition planning process and trauma-informed education and access to peer support groups for youth in foster care. If you are unable to make it, you can download a copy of the report at www.ccainsitute.org once it is released on the 28th!

2015 Foster Youth Intern Policy Report Preview: Increasing Participation in Extracurricular Activities and Higher-education Opportunities for Youth in Foster Care

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Twelve current and former foster youth are participating in CCAI’s Foster Youth Internship program, spending their summer interning for Members of Congress on Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, July 28 at a Congressional Briefing, they will use their legislative knowledge combined with their personal experience to educate federal policymakers on opportunities for reform in the U.S. foster care system. Each intern has researched and will present creative policy solutions on a range of topics. For the six days leading up to the briefing, we will provide a preview of two of the interns’ report topics.

Keri

Keri Richmond, Age 21

Internship assignment: Senator Rob Portman (R-OH)

Report focus: Foster youth participation in extracurricular activities

Why it’s important to Keri: “I wouldn’t be the first in my family to go to college or intern on Capitol Hill if it weren’t for the many mentors I met through extracurricular activities who believed in me, encouraged me, and helped me grow to be the confident woman I am today.”

Kenya

Kenya Adeola, Age 23

Internship assignment: Senator Tim Scott (R-SC)

Report focus: Higher-education opportunities for youth in foster care

Why it’s important to Kenya: “Even though there is a lack of funding and opportunity for youth in foster care to access out-of-state universities, I did it and it was the best decision of my life. Without my education, my life would be very different.”

Be sure to attend the Congressional Briefing on Tuesday, July 28 to learn about Keri’s and Kenya’s policy recommendations on increasing participation in extracurricular activities and higher-education opportunities for youth in foster care. If you are unable to make it, you can download a copy of the report at www.ccainsitute.org once it is released on the 28th!

2015 Foster Youth Intern Policy Report Preview: Mental Health Screenings and Sexual Education

CCAI_logo

Twelve current and former foster youth are participating in CCAI’s Foster Youth Internship program, spending their summer interning for Members of Congress on Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, July 28 at a Congressional Briefing, they will use their legislative knowledge combined with their personal experience to educate federal policymakers on opportunities for reform in the U.S. foster care system. Each intern has researched and will present creative policy solutions on a range of topics. For the six days leading up to the briefing, we will provide a preview of two of the interns’ report topics.

Jennessa

Jennessa Ahline, Age 23

Internship assignment: Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO)

Report focus: Importance of mental health screenings for youth in foster care

Why it’s important to Jennessa: “Foster youth experience traumatic upbringings that I believe could be mitigated with appropriate outreach and treatment.”


Ashley New Photo

Ashley Williams, Age 25

Internship assignment: Representative Karen Bass (D-CA)

Report focus: Implementing sexual education for youth in foster care

Why it’s important to Ashley: “I believe that had I been properly equipped [with knowledge] when I entered the foster care system I may have been able to avoid the unwanted sexual encounters that I experienced in the system. Age-appropriate sexual education is important because it gives children the tools they need to protect themselves.”

Be sure to attend the Congressional Briefing on Tuesday, July 28 to learn about Jennessa’s and Ashley’s policy recommendations on mental health screenings and sexual education for youth in foster care. If you are unable to make it, you can download a copy of the report at www.ccainstitute.org once it is released on the 28th!

2015 Foster Youth Intern Policy Report Preview: Educational Opportunities & Group Homes

 

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Twelve current and former foster youth are participating in CCAI’s Foster Youth Internship ™ program, spending their summer interning for Members of Congress on Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, July 28 at a Congressional Briefing, they will use their legislative knowledge combined with their personal experience to educate federal policymakers on opportunities for reform in the U.S. foster care system. Each intern has researched and will present creative policy solutions. For the six days leading up to the briefing, we will provide a preview of two of the interns’ report topics.

Angelique

Angelique Salizan, Age 23

Internship Assignment: Senate Finance Committee/Minority- Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Report focus: Education opportunities for youth in foster care

Why it’s important to Angelique:If I did not have the guidance from my educational-vocational specialist at my agency, I would not have embarked on the many educational opportunities I have had. I also would not have achieved my biggest accomplishment to date, earning my bachelor’s degree in Psychology.”

Erik

Erik Barrus, Age 29

Internship assignment: Senate Finance Committee/Majority- Sen Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

Report focus: Importance of smaller, independently-run group homes for foster youth

Why it’s important to Erik:I was one of those so-called troubled teens who was just looking for a place to feel loved and call home. I want to be able to provide this opportunity to others who want a home but don’t know how to go about securing it. I believe that every child deserves to have access to a loving home environment. Small family-style group homes are able to provide that to older children who would otherwise be subject to the negative environment that is most often abundant in the larger, warehouse-type group homes.”

Be sure to attend the Congressional Briefing on Tuesday, July 28 to learn about Angelique and Erik’s policy recommendations on education opportunities and group home living for youth in foster care. If you are unable to make it, you can download a copy of the report at www.ccainstitute.org once it is released on the 28th!

Inspiring Story of One Boy’s Second Chance at Life

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Angels in Adoption trip to Washington, D.C.: Front row left to right: Sasha, Lada, Merry-Viktoria, Viktoria and Matvei, Middle Row left to right: Zhenya and Vika. Back Row Left to Right: Mike, Dee, Grandma Groft and Congressman Platts

May 13, 2015

On this International Day of Families, CCAI is pleased to feature 2005 Angels in Adoption™ Honoree Deirdre DeVeny and her son Sasha DeVeny.

Deirdre’s Story:

In December of 2001, my husband, Mike, and I had decided to expand our family by adopting a son. If you will notice, this was a singular reference…son….as in ONE son. In September of 2000, we had adopted three beautiful Russian sisters and, enjoying our new family, decided that we could handle another child….a boy this time we thought. In an adoption portfolio, we found a family of four children that we could not seem to forget. The one little guy had his head tilted to the side and just seemed to pull us into the picture with him. We closed our eyes and couldn’t forget that small face that seemed to call out to us. We talked. We prayed. We looked over our finances. Could we financially afford, it…first, the adoption and, then, to raise…four more children? We believed that this family was meant to be part of our family. We contacted our adoption social worker. “Do you think we’re crazy?” we asked. “Maybe,” she said, “but in a good way.” So began the process of expanding our family…again.

In January of 2008, my husband died. Mike adored his children and he thrived on the challenges of raising children. In the last months of his life, we talked about what life would look like without Papa. How did we move forward? We have found a way to do that. Sasha’s reflective essay holds the key in his final lines.

first family picture
First picture as a family. In the front row: Merry-Viktoria and Matvei being held my Dee, Lada and Sasha being held by Mike. In the back row from left to right: Vika, Viktoria and Zhenya.

Sasha’s Story:

My life was way different before I came to America. Not many people know about my childhood in Kazakhstan. My life was not always easy. When I was in Kazakhstan I used to get abused by my dad. My life there was harsh: I was neglected by my parents. All I knew was how to steal and fight for what I needed. One day, my dad beat me so badly that he almost killed me and I was put in the hospital. When I woke up, I was sent to an orphanage with my brothers and sister to live. It was a horrible place, too, but it was better than home. I thought I would never get out of there. I didn’t know how to get out of there. Then one day my life changed when my brothers and sister and I got adopted. Instead of learning bad things about life, I came out a different person.

 I grew up in a small town in Kazakhstan called Tschushincks. My family was poor. My mom and dad had alcohol problems. My dad did not like me for a reason that I could never figure out. He always was mean to me and seemed to like my two brothers and sister better. I figured that out because I was the one that he beat up all of the time. He treated me like I was nothing and, if he was angry, I was the one that ended up with a broken bone. He told me that it was my fault that he had to hurt me, but I never understood. That was when I started acting bad and I stopped coming home. I wasn’t even five yet but I used to go and steal stuff from other people and get into fights with other kids because I didn’t know any other life and I needed stuff, like food, to survive.

Life never made sense to me when I was little. When I was almost five years old, I was playing and smashed a tomato from my dad’s tomato plant that was in our living room. I remember my dad coming home. He was drunk and very angry. When he came into the room, he looked at the plant and got even more angry. He ask me if I destroyed the plant and I was scared so I lied about it. Then mom told my dad I was the one who did it. I remember he grabbed me and threw me on the ground then he started attacking me. He grabbed my leg and picked me up and started shaking me around like a rag doll.  I was thrown against the wall. My dad made me drink alcohol- I don’t know why- but I did not feel any pain even when my dad broke my leg and my arm and cracked my skull. I almost died that day. I don’t really remember anything after the beating because I think I was in a coma. I just remember waking up in the hospital all bandaged up and I was in different casts just lying there.

After a couple months my grandma came and picked me up from the hospital. After that I did not live with my parents; I lived with my grandma on a small farm. I live there for a couple months. Then I was put in a orphanage with my brothers and sister because my grandma was not able to take care of me because she had a problem with alcohol. I did not like the orphanage because you had to fight all the time to protect yourself. The orphanage was in an abandoned Russian hospital. It was dark and very creepy inside. Then one day my brothers and sister and I met a couple that we did not know and they talked to us, but we did not understand them and they did not understand us. But I felt comfortable being around them. Then they started visiting us every day and we found out that they were going to adopt us. They wanted to be my new parents. I was very excited because I could have a second chance in life without hate or anger, and I felt safe.

first glimpse
The first picture the Deveny’s ever saw of Sasha and his bothers and sister. From bottom left: Zhenya and Merry-Viktoria. Top left to right: Matvei and Sasha

 One day I found out I was being adopted and the next week I was getting on a plane to fly to America. I did not know where I was going at first, but I did not care because I just wanted to leave Kazakhstan and the orphanage. We stopped in different countries before coming to America, like Russia and Germany. I remember I almost got in a fight in Germany with four other boys but my new dad stopped me. When we finally got to the United States, I remember meeting my three new sisters in an airport where they were waiting with my new babushka in the van to take us to our new home. Life was different now.

 When your life changes around you, you have to make changes to yourself. What I learned from this experience was that something bad might happen to you, but in the end something good can come out of it. I also came out of it a different person from the bad experience. Most kids that go through this come out very angry and they grow up being hateful and always getting in trouble with the law. I came out a completely different person; I am a nice caring young man. I will always remember what I went through. Only now I know that I can get through anything because the fear is no more. I am stronger as a person now.   

 About the author:  Alexander Clay DeVeny (Sasha) was born in December of 1994 in northern Kazakhstan. He was the third child in a family of what would eventually be four children. His early life was full of abuse and pain and neglect. Eventually Sasha and his siblings found themselves living in an orphanage after being removed from their home. In another turn of fate, he and his siblings found themselves adopted and living in the United States.

Sasha is now proudly looking forward to his graduation from Northeastern High School. He is looking forward to his future. His story that he is sharing was actually part of an assignment in his 12th grade English class that asked students to write a self-reflection. It is a brutal story of what one child survived and how he now sees his future.

sasha april 2015
Sasha in grade 12. (April, 2015)

2014 CCAI Foster Youth Intern Introduces First Lady Michelle Obama Today

amnoni at the white house

 Today, the Administration celebrated Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, hosting children of White House staff to spend the day at work with their parents. For the first time ever, the event was expanded to include children and youth in the foster care system, disconnected from family, and/or who may not have a parent with a job that does not allow them to bring their children to work.

Throughout the day, the children had the opportunity to enjoy a series of educational activities and work-based learning opportunities. The highlight of the day was a visit from First Lady Michelle Obama, who shared stories about her childhood and encouraged the children that they can achieve their dreams.

 The First Lady was introduced by CCAI’s very own 2014 Foster Youth Intern, Amnoni Myers, who is currently a White House Intern for the Domestic Policy Council and supported the planning of this event. Inspired by the words of her mentor, Amnoni has not let her past dictate her future, “As a White House Intern, I am now working to increase opportunities for many of America’s most vulnerable youth. Today we celebrate the expansion of Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day at the White House and other federal agencies to include hundreds of young people who are not typically included in this event, but like their peers need to be reminded that their future is bright and their potential is boundless.”

 Click here to watch Amnoni’s introduction of the First Lady, beginning at 29:30.