2010 FYI Hosts Chafee Panel

Last week, the Senate Finance Committee hosted a panel examining how Chafee has been working over the past 10 years.  Nicole Marchman, 2010 FYI and intern for the Majority Senate Finance Committee, took advantage of Chafee’s upcoming review by proposing this event.  She invited a panel of former foster youth to testify on the effectiveness of the Chafee program.  Each panelist was a member of CCAI’s 2010 Foster Youth Internship Class. Nicole also moderated the panel along with 2010 FYI, Markus McQueen.

Barbara Pryor, Legislative Assistant at Senator Rockefeller and  Laurie Rubiner, Vice President for Public Policy for Planned Parenthood served as respondents for the panel. Both served a major roll in passing the John Chafee Foster Care Independence Act in 1999.

LaTasha Hayes is finishing her junior year at California State University Stanislaus. She is swiftly approaching the age limit for her Chafee education stipend. LaTasha recommended extending the age beyond 23, which would account for youth who start school later than age 19.

Jeremy Long is a recent graduate from the University of Northern Colorado who has been fortunate to have only one placement during his time in the foster care system. Because Jeremy learned life skills from his foster mother, he didn’t need the funds appropriated by Chafee for adult skills classes. Jeremy proposed a screening for benefits needed by each youth so that no funds would be wasted when they could be supporting another youth in need.

Wendy Ruiz was denied Chafee funding when she started school in 2007 at Los Angeles City College due to budget cuts. In order to keep track of funds, Wendy proposed a database to track funds across states. This accountability would allow to know how many youth they are serving and how many youth are being denied.

Sam Martin grew up in kinship care in Seattle, Washington. Sam is passionate about bringing support to kinship care providers and youth in kinship care. These situations are often in just as much need of funds as foster care families and Sam believes they should receive assistance the Chafee.


Shades of Gray

I have been spending this summer in Washington, DC as a Foster Youth Intern for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Foster Care Alumni of America scheduled and planned a boat cruise for a few of the foster youth interns. On this cruise, I had the opportunity to meet Brian Samuels, the Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families. He was selected by President Obama himself to work in the Obama Administration. We began to talk at the beginning of the cruise. Some of the things we were talking about were related to the funding of the foster care system. I talked to him about the work I was doing in Rep. Jim McDermott’s (WA-07) office, which was focused more on extending the waiver program to Washington State. From then on we got into a very deep conversation about the real issue of foster care.

Initially Bryan told me that he was not convinced that the waiver program would bring upon the change that I had expected in the foster care system. He said that if states were not motivated to improve the system with all the funding they receive now; why would they be more motivated with looser uses of the money. When I heard that I changed my entire perspective on how I saw the financing of the system. It was clear that not everything was so black and white and what I thought was the solution turned out not to be the solution at all.

Bryan Samuels opened my eyes to the biggest issue of the foster care system. People will cross-reference and find data in all these different areas of the foster care system but that is the same as trying to compare apples to oranges. He said many of the issues that surround the foster care system cross multiple different issues. Bryan spoke to me about his experience about being the Chief of staff for the Department of Education. He talked about how in the education system people would figure out the problem but not focus on it. He correlated it to the fact that if kids don’t get to see siblings let’s not keep looking at why kids don’t get to see siblings. Let’s focus on allowing kids to see brothers and sisters.

This experience made me realize that I don’t have all the answers and also allowed me to expand my horizons. It was also a great honor to meet Mr. Samuels. It is also very good to be able to see the potential flaws in the suggestions I have made. I know that it doesn’t discredit me at all but I know now the other side of the argument and I can look for potential flaws in my proposal. Without the opportunity to talk to Mr. Samuels none of this would have been possible and the CCAI report would have been just a little less prepared. Thank you again Foster Care Alumni of America, Orphan Foundation of America, and CCAI.

“Connect, connect, connect.”

CCAI Foster Youth Interns met Thursday with respected leaders in various fields for an opportunity to learn the value of networking. Speechwriters, business leaders and non-profit organizers offered advice on the importance of making connections and the necessity of being kind to everyone you encounter in the workforce.

2010 FYI Nicole Marchman said, “With the desire to transition into a permanent job in DC, the networking allowed me to pin point where I would love to work and further my career in policy for foster care, adoption issues.”

“Networking is one of the most important things you can do,” FYI Jeremy Long said.

“To hear it coming from high-level professionals reconfirms the importance of creating and maintaining relationships with everyone you meet. You never know, the mail clerk may be the next president. Connect, connect, connect,” Long said

Interns also swapped business cards with these leaders, many of whom are currently involved with child advocacy. “After meeting with Foster Care Alumni I became interested in re-establish a Florida chapter,” Marchman said.

In addition to a Congressional internship, CCAI’s seeks to give interns a real-world experience complete with professional training. The networking luncheon was established to provide that training through networking with a diverse group of leaders and firsthand motivation from professionals.

Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy release In a Heartbeat to share their story

Yesterday, Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy of the award winning movie The Blind Side and 2009 National Angel in Adoption, released their book In a Heartbeat: Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving. In the book they directs reader to visit the Making It Happen Tuohy Family Foundation website, which lists CCAI as a charitable organization to support.  Read the below synopsis of the Tuohy’s book from Barnesandnoble.com:

For the first time, the remarkable couple depicted in The Blind Side tells their own deeply inspiring story.  First came the bestselling book, then the Oscar-nominated movie—the story of Michael Oher and the family who adopted him has become one of the most talked-about true stories of our time. But until now, Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy have never told this astonishing tale in their own way and with their own words.

For Leigh Anne and Sean, it all begins with family. Leigh Anne, the daughter of a tough-as-nails U.S. Marshal, decided early on that her mission was to raise children who would become “cheerful givers.” Sean, who grew up poor, believed that one day he could provide a home that would be “a place of miracles.” Together, they raised two remarkable children—Collins and Sean Jr.—who shared their deep Christian faith and their commitment to making a difference. And then one day Leigh Anne met a homeless African-American boy named Michael and decided that her family could be his. She and her husband taught Michael what this book teaches all of us: Everyone has a blind side, but a loving heart always sees a path toward true charity.

Michael Oher’s improbable transformation could never have happened if Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy had not opened their hearts to him. In this compelling, funny, and profoundly inspiring book, the Tuohys take us on an extraordinary journey of faith and love—and teach us unforgettable lessons about the power of giving.

Down by the lake, where the watermelons grow…

This past weekend, CCAI and our FYIs packed up and headed to Deep Creek Lake for a retreat outside of the city.  One of CCAI’s board members graciously opened their weekend home, and we could not have been more grateful for this opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle and the 100 degree weather of DC!  I can say without a doubt that I haven’t seen the interns have this much fun all summer–must be something about flying across the water on the back of a jet ski or bumping along the wake while tubing.  Whatever it was, it was the perfect recipe for fun!  At the close of the second night our host gave us a moon lit boat tour of the lake with a stop at the local creamery.  The interns left rejuvenated (and very sore from all the water sports) to return to DC and finish drafting their policy report.

Here are some pictures from this weekend:

The group in front of the house
Latasha and Sam
Jeremy, Nicole, and Chelsea taking a breather while tubing
The group not ready to leave