Photo Essay: An Inside Look at the 2016 Angels in Adoption® Program

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CCAI’s Angels in Adoption® Program consists of three days of events in Washington, D.C. where those who have made an extraordinary contribution in the lives of children through adoption or foster care are celebrated by Members of Congress.

Take a look at some of the highlights from the 2016 Angels in Adoption® Program!

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2016 Angels in Adoption® Program honorees kicked off the week of events learning about CCAI and other child welfare organizations at CCAI’s Adoption and Foster Care Advocacy Fair and Ice Cream Social.
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The rain did not stop CCAI’s Angels in Adoption® honorees as they toured the U.S. Capitol Building!
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Congressional Coalition on Adoption member, U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) at the Senate Breakfast with his constituents and Angels in Adoption® honorees, Buck and DeAndra Gibson and CCAI Executive Director, Becky Weichhand.
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Congressional Coalition on Adoption Co-Chair, U.S. Representative Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), congratulated Angels in Adoption® honorees for opening their hearts and homes to children in need of a loving family.

 

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Congressional Coalition on Adoption Co-Chair, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar was joined by CCAI’s Executive Director, Becky Weichhand, CCAI’s Advisory Council Member, Kelly Gage, CCAI’s Director of Policy, Christen Glickman, 2016 National Angels in Adoption® honorees, Rick Spielman and Rob Brzezinski of the Minnesota Vikings, and 2016 Gala Emcees, Bill Klein and Dr. Jennifer Arnold from TLC’s the Little Couple.

 

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U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) met with Angels in Adoption® honorees during Hill Day.

 

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2016 Angels in Adoption® Gala Red Carpet! Left to Right: Jack Gerard, Claudette Gerard, Rick Spielman, Rob Brzezinski, Bill Klein, Dr. Jen Arnold, Becky Weichhand.
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2016 Angels in Adoption® Gala Emcees, Bill Klein and Dr, Jennifer Arnold of TLC’s The Little Couple spoke about the importance of family and how the adoption of their children, Zoey and Will, has played a huge role in their lives.
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CCAI Executive Director, Becky Weichhand, spoke about CCAI’s mission of children in families. The Angels in Adoption® Program is an opportunity to share the story of the heroes who have helped children in U.S. foster care and orphans around the world realize their basic right to a family.
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Demetrius Johnson, 2016 Foster Youth Internship Program® participant, waved to his soon-to-be adoptive parents in the crowd as he spoke about his experiences as an alumni of the U.S. foster care system and his plans for the future.
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CCAI’s 2016 Gala Entertainers, 2005 National Angels in Adoption® Alum and GRAMMY Award winning band, Jars of Clay, spent time off stage with Angels in Adoption® honorees.
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National Angels in Adoption® honoree and country music star, Jimmy Wayne, received his award via Verizon’s VGo from Congressional Coalition on Adoption Co-Chair, U.S. Senator, Roy Blunt (R-MO).
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Congressional Coalition on Adoption Co-Chair, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in “Vikings purple” stands with Rick Spielman and Rob Brzezinski, of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, as they accept the 2016 National Angels in Adoption® award.

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We hope you enjoyed this photographic summary of CCAI’s 2016 Angels in Adoption® Program. We hope you’ll share this blog with others. Please be sure to follow CCAI on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and use the hashtag #adoptionangels!

To donate toward CCAI’s Angels in Adoption® Program and our mission of children in families, please visit www.ccainstitute.org/get-involved/donate.

 

The Angels in Adoption® Program is a signature program of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

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Photo Essay: An Inside Look at CCAI’s 20/20 Vision Delegation to Haiti

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CCAI’s 20/20 Vision Program is a public-private partnership delegation model designed to educate Members of Congress, build relationships, increase positive dialogue and improve adoption and child welfare policy and practice around the globe.

CCAI’s most recent 20/20 Vision delegation was a follow up to our  20/20 Vision Program delegation to Haiti in August of 2014. Our goal was to gather on-the-ground knowledge about the needs of children in Haiti who are living outside of the care of families, as well as the solutions offered through programs, systems, law and policy that support placement and care of these children in families. The delegation plans to brainstorm ways to strengthen U.S. foreign policy for vulnerable children and families upon returning to the United States. Take a look at some of the highlights!

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Congressional Coalition on Adoption co-chair, U.S. Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ), warmly greets a sibling group who has been reunified with their parents after spending time in an orphanage at a site visit in Haiti.
The delegation met from Bethany Global and learned about one of the first foster care in Haiti.
The delegation met with Bethany Global and learned about their foster care program in Haiti.
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Dr. Dana Johnson, a University of Minnesota Health neonatologist and founder of the University of Minnesota Health Adoption Medicine Clinic sharing his reflections on site visits to help the delegation understand the effects of children languishing in orphanages.
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Representing the CCAI Board of Directors on the delegation was Susan Neely, CEO of the American Beverage Association.
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Members of CCAI’s 20/20 Vision Delegation visiting with children who were recently reunified with their loving families. These children and families, with the support of their social workers at the Lumos Foundation, bravely shared their personal experiences with institutions to educate the delegates on paths into and out of orphanages.
CCAI Executive Director, Becky Weichhand, Restavek Freedom Executive Director Joan Conn and Assistant Secretary of State Michele Bond shared a moment at a site visit.
CCAI Executive Director, Becky Weichhand, Restavek Freedom Executive Director Joan Conn and Assistant Secretary of State Michele Bond shared a moment at a site visit.
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The delegation is briefed by a staff member at an orphanage, who shares the stories of several children in the care of the institution.
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A lone toy sits atop one child’s bunk bed in one of the institutions the delegation visited.
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The 20/20 Vision delegates met with Arielle Jeanty Villedrouin, Director of the Institut du BienEtre Social et de Recherches (IBSER) – Haiti’s child protection and permanency authority, to learn about current opportunities and gaps in the continuum of family care options for children. Site visits throughout the trip provided insight into the full continuum of care for children in Haiti,  including reunification efforts, Haiti’s new foster care strategy and domestic and intercountry adoptions.
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U.S. Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ) and U.S. Representative Robert Aderholt (R-AL) learning about the health condition of a child in need of a surgery at an orphanage in Port-au-Prince. (Photo shared with permission.) Dr. Johnson explained to the delegation how most institutions worldwide house a high percentage of children with medical needs.
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The U.S. Embassy staff host a reception with the delegation and representatives of Haiti’s child welfare community. Pictured here, left to right: U.S. Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ); Assistant Secretary of State Michele Bond; Minister of Social Affairs, Jean Rene Antoine Nicolas; CCAI Executive Director, Becky Weichhand; Charge d’Affaires, Brian Shukan; U.S.Representative Robert Aderholt (R-AL) and U.S. Embassy Consular General, Bob Hannan. The delegation was deeply impressed with the kindness and dedication of the U.S. Embassy staff throughout our visit.
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A caregiver and a child recovering from surgery at a strategic orphanage visit.
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The CCAI 20/20 Vision Delegation, reunited families, foster families, youth and the Lumos Foundation’s Haitian staff after a strategic sharing session with these resilient families. (Photo taken with permission and at the request of the families.)
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The delegation met with UNICEF’s Country Director, Marc Vincent, to learn about UNICEF’s programs, priorities and investments in Haiti, including a foster care program. The group was also briefed by the U.S. Embassy and U.S.AID staff on U.S. foreign assistance and U.S.AID programming related to vulnerable children.
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The delegation toured the Brigade for the Protection of Minors (BPM), a small group of law enforcement officers that works to protect children in conjunction with the Haitian Police Department and IBESR. The BPM tour included cases resolved through their casework and child protection database, in partnership with Restavek Freedom Foundation. The dedication of the BPM staff was profound, yet they face serious resource gaps as they work to protect Haiti’s most vulnerable children.
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CCAI was honored to be joined by three dedicated public servants during the delegation. Left to right: U.S. Representative Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Assistant Secretary of State Michele Bond and U.S. Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ).

To learn more or engage with CCAI in our international child welfare advocacy, please contact info@ccainstitute.org and sign up for our listserv.

Photo Credit: Keziah Jean Photography, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Guest Blog: Reflections on CCAI’s 20/20 Vision Congressional Delegation to Haiti

 

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CCAI Guest Blogger: Jelani Freeman 

I traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) for its 20/20 Vision program – a public-private partnership which exists to increase positive dialogue and the exchange of information among private sector individuals, international and domestic government officials, and Members of Congress. I currently serve on the CCAI Advisory Council and participated in its Foster Youth Internship (FYI) Program in 2003. From its early beginning in 2001, CCAI has been a leader in raising awareness and bringing together like-minded partners to ensure that every child in the world knows the love and support of a family. And that is exactly what its 20/20 Vision Program accomplished in Haiti this summer.

While this was the first time I ever visited Haiti, for many years I had felt a kinship to the island-nation through the literature of one of my favorite authors, Edwidge Danticat. I began reading Danticat as a high school student when I met her at a book signing for her short story collection – Krik Krak. Through her award-winning works like Breath, Eyes and Memory, The Farming of Bones, and The Dew Breaker, Danticat transported me to the countryside and urban spaces of Haiti where I could almost smell and taste the griyo & pikliz, see the stunning mountainous terrain and feel the cooling Caribbean waters on a hot day. Danticat unflinchingly writes about Haiti’s complicated revolutionary history and often gives a voice to those Haitians for whom silence is no longer a feasible option. Danticat described her home as best she could, trying to prepare me for all the beauty I would see, but as masterful of a storyteller as she is, I was quite simply unprepared for a country that is beautiful beyond belief – although it isn’t supposed to be.

Photo Credit: Erica Baker.
Photo Credit: Erica Baker.

After the 2010 earthquake and years of social and political unrest, Haiti remains a resilient nation, fixated on a brighter future. I saw the best example of this in the country’s child welfare system reform. Through strong public-private partnerships, Haiti is showing its commitment to a prosperous future by protecting and ensuring the development of its most valuable resource – its children. I saw this in the work of the dedicated staff of IBESR – Haiti’s Institute of Social Welfare and Research, which among other reforms, is leading the way to ensure that fraud is eradicated from its international adoption program to make sure that only children legally eligible to be adopted are authorized for adoption and strengthen their capacity in the full continuum of care for children.

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CCAI’s 20/20 Vision Delegation met with the leadership of IBESR, Haiti’s Institute of Social Welfare and Research. Photo Credit: Keziah Jean.

I witnessed how devoted the Haitian National Police’s Brigade for the Protection of Minors are to devising and implementing systems to stamp out child abuse, neglect and trafficking, in partnership with organizations like the Restavek Freedom Foundation.

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The delegation toured an office of the Brigade for the Protection of Minors (BPM), a small group of law enforcement officers that works to protect children in collaboration with the Haitian National Police and IBESR. Photo Credit: Keziah Jean.

And while government agencies like these are working to lead the way in child welfare reform in Haiti, they are not alone, as I saw many private organizations that were not just treating the symptoms of a damaged child welfare system, but are aggressively seeking to identify the root causes and cure the problem. As we visited organizations like Papillon Enterprises and Peacycle, I learned that extreme poverty is what often tears families apart and places children in orphanages, because there is simply not enough money to care for the children. So private organizations have stepped to the forefront to provide job training and creation, in order for parents to have a sustainable income so that families can stay together or be reunified. Words cannot explain how heartwarming it was to hear from families that were once split up due to a lack of money, now back together because the parents accessed assistance and a stable income. The best place for children to thrive is in their families, and that is why its laudable that efforts are now beginning to remove barriers that keep children from their families in Haiti.

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Members of CCAI’s 20/20 Vision Delegation heard from children who were recently reunified with their loving families. (Photography with permission from the family) Photo credit: Keziah Jean.

In circumstances where there is not a viable option to keep or return children to their families, Haitians are also now beginning to implement a foster care model. While our U.S. foster care system is not without its shortcomings, the science is clear that children cognitively develop faster and are without less severe health issues in family settings than children in congregate care – e.g., orphanages and group homes. While foster care in Haiti is still in its infancy, it is programs like CCAI’s 20/20 Vision Program and this congressional delegation to Haiti that are so critical, because through information sharing, technical assistance from experts in the field, and strategic partnerships, Haiti has the opportunity to create and implement an excellent child welfare system.

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Jelani at the Delegation’s Welcome Reception with congressional staff, Assistant Secretary of State, Michele Bond and the Haitian child welfare community. Photo Credit: Keziah Jean.

Jelani Freeman serves on CCAI’s Advisory Council, is a dedicated alumni of CCAI’s Foster Youth Internship Program®, and Serves on the Board of the Barker Adoption Foundation.

Interview: U.S. Representatives Lawrence, McMorris Rodgers on Importance of FYI Program

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Bipartisan Politics at its Best: Two Members of Congress Reflect on Hosting CCAI’s Foster Youth Interns This Summer

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) is proud to be entirely bipartisan, serving both sides of the aisle. This week we interviewed U.S. Representative Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Co-Chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, and U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Chair of the House Republican Conference, about their experiences hosting a CCAI Foster Youth Intern this summer.

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U.S. Representative Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) with CCAI Foster Youth Intern, Princess Harmon (Photo Credit: Erica Baker Photography)

As an advocate for adoption and foster youth, what have you learned and what are your greatest successes on child welfare in your role as a U.S. Representative?

After assuming office in January 2015, my very first legislative accomplishment was passing an amendment impacting foster youth within ESSA, also known as the Every Student Succeeds Act. My amendment required the U.S. Secretary of Education to track the educational progress of foster youth in America. I believe that by truly understanding how our youth in care are performing in school, we can most effectively target federal resources to the areas in greatest need.

Why is CCAI’s commitment to bipartisanship support for foster children and youth important to you?

CCAI’s commitment to bipartisanship is essential to the fate of foster children and youth in America. At the end of the day, the well-being and success of our children should never be a partisan issue. I work each day to display my commitment to bipartisanship in this Congress. My very first amendment to ESSA was the only Democrat amendment accepted with unanimous bipartisan support. The passage of this amendment proves that support for foster youth is a topic that bridges the partisan divide. Its inclusion in the long overdue education reauthorization package demonstrates how we can work across the aisle to advance policy’s that will change the lives of foster youth in this country.

How has CCAI’s Foster Youth Internship Program® personally impacted you?

My CCAI Foster Youth Intern this past summer made valuable contributions to my office. I enjoyed her hard work and dedication to serve my constituents back home in Michigan. Her passion for advocacy and creating solutions to addressing the needs of the adoption and foster community have left a lasting impression on me.

Why would you encourage your fellow Congressional Colleagues to host a CCAI Foster Youth Intern next summer?

My CCAI Foster Youth Intern has played an integral role in my office. Her diverse perspective bring a unique voice to an issue that might not be widely addressed in my colleagues’ offices. I’ve enjoyed the intern I hosted and encourage my colleagues to also open their offices to a CCAI Foster Youth Intern.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE Cathy McMORRIS RODGERS (R-WA) 
U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) with CCAI Foster Youth Intern, Kristopher Wannquist (Photo Credit: Erica Baker Photography)

As an advocate for adoption and foster youth, what have you learned and what are your greatest successes on child welfare in your role as a U.S. Representative and at the House Republican Conference?

I have the honor of representing remarkable adoptive families in Eastern Washington, like the Ubachs, who have taken in vulnerable youth with disabilities into their homes and into their hearts. The Ubachs, and Kris, my CCAI Foster Youth Intern this summer, are not only reminders of the challenges vulnerable youth face in this country, but also of their potential if given the chance to pursue their vision of the American Dream.

Why is CCAI’s commitment to bipartisanship support for foster children and youth important to you?

Being a voice for people, no matter their background or walk of life, is not a partisan issue – it’s a key responsibility of our elected representatives. The House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans have worked together since the foundation of the Adoption and Foster Youth caucuses, to shine a light on America’s “forgotten youth.”

How has CCAI’s Foster Youth Internship Program® personally impacted you?

For me, it brings the stories home. Kris is an inspiration. He had a rough start to life. As he said himself, he could have—should have—been a statistic. But by the grace of God, resilience, and extended foster care, he is now a confident young man and a thriving student at Washington State University here in my Eastern Washington district. He’s using his experience to advocate for the next generation of foster youth, and it was remarkable to witness his growth in the CCAI intern program. He is a passionate young man, a hard worker, and, thanks to the program, we’re all better for having heard his story.

Why would you encourage your fellow Congressional colleagues to host a CCAI Foster Youth Intern next summer?

The American people send us here to serve as their voice in our government, so it’s important to have an open mind and an open heart to people from all backgrounds. Having a foster youth intern provides a unique, and often underrepresented, perspective to policy making, and is of value to any Congressional office.

To learn more about ways you can participate in supporting the individual interns, contact CCAI’s Director of DevelopmentMartina Arnold.

The Foster Youth Internship Program® is a signature program of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

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Powerful Voices: CCAI Foster Youth Interns Release 2016 Report Findings

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The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute Announces the Release of its 2016 Foster Youth Internship Program® Policy Report: Powerful Voices, Sharing Our Stories to Reform Child Welfare

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CCAI Foster Youth Interns presenting their policy report recommendations at a congressional briefing on July 12, 2016.

Congratulations to the 2016 CCAI Foster Youth Internship Program® class on the release of their policy report, Powerful Voices: Sharing Our Stories to Reform Child Welfare. Each of our 12 Foster Youth Interns spent the summer not only interning on Capitol Hill, but also writing a policy report on how to better the foster care system, using inspiration from their personal experiences. Yesterday, at a congressional briefing, our talented Foster Youth Interns presented this report containing 22 significant policy recommendations to Members of Congress, congressional staff and the child welfare community. For nine consecutive years, the FYI Program’s congressional policy report has provided the federal government with real solutions to some of its most challenging problems in the child welfare system. Previous reports have resulted in new federal laws and legislation that helped the over 415,000 of children in the U.S. foster care system.

Read the report HERE!

Read a summary of their recommendations below!

Vaneshia Reed (CA): Over Criminalized and Under Licensed: Addressing Barriers to Kinship Care

  • Congress should require states to adopt the Criminal History Records Check-Standards of the National Model Family Foster Home Licensing Standards;
  • Congress should include a reporting mechanism to ensure accountability.

 LilCrystal Dernier (FL): Improving Foster Youth Relationships through Secure Attachment Training: A New Way Forward for Caregivers

  • Congress should create a pilot program to encourage the development of a “Secure Attachment Training” (SAT) curriculum by adapting existing evidence-based foster care training programs;
  • Congress should amend the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 to require foster parent training programs to include an evidence-based attachment curriculum.

Demetrius Johnson (NY): Subsidy Fraud: Exposing Adoption Subsidy Abuse

  • Congress should provide clarity in the law or guidance to states to require the termination of adoption subsidies where the adoptive parent is no longer providing support to an adopted child;
  • Congress should require states to annually track dissolutions to determine subsidy eligibility and investigate all suspected fraud cases.

Jason Morin (FL): Preserving Families Afflicted by Substance Abuse Through a Recovery-Focused Approach

  • Congress should require states to establish FDC standards as a prerequisite for the receipt of Title IV-E funding;
  • Congress should concurrently incentivize states to utilize a recovery-focused approach.

Erica Ontiveros (CA): Crossing System Lines: Collaborating to Improve Outcomes for Dual Involved Youth

  • Congress should establish a “Federal Data Gathering Unity for Dual Involved Youth” in the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and require each state to report data on dual involved youth for tracking to the new database;
  • Congress should set a federal minimum standard that state courts, juvenile delinquency agencies and child welfare agencies must identify dual involved within the first 14 days of a juvenile delinquency charge and cross-report to a designated office within the other entity.

Princess Harmon (MI): Financial Stability: Adoption Subsidies for Foster Parents

  • Congress should require states to set foster care reimbursement that are equal to the cost of raising a child in that state for a middle-income family, as well as reevaluate the rate annually to keep up with the inflation and the cost of living.

Precious Price (CT): The Over Prescription of Psychotropic Medication: Increasing Accountability and Credibility

  • Congress should allocate funds to develop a pilot program to establish a “Foster Care Mental Health Center” (FCMHC) to better serve the mental health needs of children in foster care;
  • Congress should establish a maintenance matching rate for any child welfare agency that employs child psychiatrists as mental health directors.

Kristopher Wannquist (WA): Extended Foster Care and Re-Entry: Increasing Success for Older Foster Youth

  • Congress should amend the Title IV-E of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. § 622, 1980) to require states extending foster care from age 18 to 21 to allow re-entry of youth into EFC, up to the age of 21;
  • Congress should require states who receive Title IV-E reimbursements for EFC to educate all foster youth on the eligibility for EFC, as well as their eligibility for re-entry until the state’s maximum age requirement. This education should occur during the youth’s transition planning required by law or no later than six months prior to their 18th

Victoria Wichman (OH): Fostering the Voiceless, Caring for Labels: Dedicated Advocates for Children in Foster Care

  • Congress should require states to ensure every foster youth has an advocate who advocates in their best interest;
  • As part of National Foster Care Awareness Month, Congress should designate a national awareness day regarding foster youth stereotypes and labels.

Jennifer Rhodes (TN): Foster Home Placement Preservation: Providing Permanency to Youth in the Foster Care System Limbo

  • Congress should incentivize states to preserve foster care placements by providing “In Home Foster Placement Preservation Services” in a pilot program;
  • Congress should establish a guideline for all foster youth to receive a 14 to 30 day notice of a placement change.

David Rivera (CA): Improving Placement Stability for All Youth in Foster Care

  • Congress should require states to report to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) the current number of youth in their child welfare systems who identify as LGBTQ;
  • Congress should require states to provide “LGBTQ Competency Training” for agencies and foster and adoptive families.

Ivy-Marie Washington (TX): Running from the System: Improving Placement Stability and Foster Youth Runaway Prevention

  • Congress should amend the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014 to restrict the renewal of a foster home license when multiple foster youth in the same home have been displaced due to alleged safety concerns and maltreatment by a foster parent.

We thank all of our Foster Youth Interns for their hard work this summer, and look forward to keeping you updated on the results of their recommendations. To learn more about CCAI’s Foster Youth Internship Program® and see this incredible program at work, click here.

Contact Martina Arnold to learn more about ways you can participate in supporting the individual interns. There are various needs and opportunities surrounding the program each summer. We would be honored to have you join us in celebrating these young leaders.

Martina can be reached at martina@ccainstitute.org.

 The Foster Youth Internship Program® is a signature program of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. To learn more, visit us at www.ccainstitute.org

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Former Foster Youth Excited For Opportunity On Capitol Hill

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2016 CCAI Foster Youth Intern Jennifer Rhodes, is originally from Baltimore, MD but grew up in East Tennessee. She is a recent graduate of Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in social work. She currently works in the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means through CCAI’s Foster Youth Internship Program®.

I remember the day jennI received the phone call that I had been selected to be a part of the 2016 Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s (CCAI) Foster Youth Internship Program®. I could not believe it! A few short months later, it was such an amazing feeling at college graduation to walk across the stage knowing that I would soon be headed to the nation’s capital to work for Congress and be a part of this amazing program. Flying to Washington, D.C. was an adventure in itself. Although I had visited before on educational trips, I had never flown alone. I remember feeling so thankful I was able to have a window seat as the plane started to land, and I got an amazing view of the beautiful city. In that moment, I thought to myself, “I made it, I am really here!”

Even though I’m living in a new city with completely new surroundings, I honestly haven’t had a moment where I’ve felt afraid. If anything, I could not be more excited to be working with other former foster youth, just like me, in an environment where we can combine our voices and stories to create such a powerful impact. One of the most empowering aspects of CCAI’s Foster Youth Internship Program® is knowing that all I endured in the foster care system is guiding my passion in life, and I stand here strong, supported and empowered with my CCAI family and fellow interns Crystal, David, Demetrius, Erica, Jason, Kris, Ivy-Marie, Precious, Princess, Tori and Vaneshia.

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This experience has afforded me the opportunity to intern with the United States House Ways and Means Committee at a time when a prominent piece of child welfare legislation is being considered. There are 6 subcommittees: Tax, Trade, Oversight, Social Security, Human Resources, and Health. The Committee has empowered me to reach out to the Human Resources Subcommittee and understand how child welfare is handled. I even had the opportunity to attend a mark-up for the Families First Prevention Services Act of 2016 with all of the Committee members and staff! One of my favorite opportunities so far was meeting with the different subcommittees and learning about the responsibilities they hold. It is such a privilege to see all the hard work that goes on at Capitol Hill and I am especially thankful for the incredibly diverse exposure I have received by being in this office.

There is an amazing amount of thought and detail by the CCAI staff that goes into every opportunity the Foster Youth Interns have here. I’m informed, prepared, supported and have the knowledge to access any necessary information that surrounds me. When  arriving to Washington, D.C., all of us FYI’s had  orientation and retreat, both of which gave me such a great opportunity to be ready both emotionally and professionally, and build relationships with everyone in the program. Alongside our congressional internship, we are each working hard to write a policy report full of recommendations for Congress to address issues in the U.S. foster care system. I am really looking forward to presenting my policy report recommendations at briefings to both Congress and the White House in July. I am excited to use my voice to address the frequent placement changes children in the foster care system experience. Research shows, and I know from experience, that bouncing from placement to placement has a negative and painful impact on children that can leave lasting affects.

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I can already tell leaving Washington, D.C. will be hard at the end of the summer, especially saying goodbye to my Foster Youth Intern cohort, but I’m excited to use the knowledge I’ve gained to continue to speak on behalf of vulnerable children in the foster care system. I hope to soon begin a dual degree Masters Program in Public Health and Social Work. I would eventually like to come back to Capitol Hill or serve in an organization that focuses on reforming the juvenile justice system. I know that this opportunity with the CCAI Foster Youth Internship Program® will lead me in directions I didn’t even know were possible.

There is so much to be grateful for, but what I am most grateful for is each and every person who saw the value in this powerful program. I am grateful for each Foster Youth Intern, for all of the CCAI staff, and those who take the time to provide us with the training and support to do our best during our time in D.C. It is so empowering to know that I have been selected to represent this program and am being supported in reaching my dreams so other foster youth can reach theirs too.

You can encourage and support the 2016 Foster Youth Interns!

  • Send us an email or note of encouragement for the 2016 class and we’ll read it at their weekly community meeting where they work on their policy reports.
  • Contact Martina Arnold to learn more about ways you can participate in supporting the individual interns. There are various needs and opportunities surrounding the program each summer. We would be honored to have you join us in celebrating these young leaders.

Martina can be reached at martina@ccainstitute.org.

The Foster Youth Internship Program® is a signature program of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. To learn more, visit us at www.ccainstitute.org

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