In New Report, Foster Youth Tell Congress, “Don’t Write Us Off”
Better Policies, Not More Funding, Will Help Most Vulnerable
Psychotropic Drugs, Education and Immigration Top Areas for Reform
Washington, DC – August 2, 2011 – Today a group of former foster youth interning on Capitol Hill released a comprehensive report on the system in which they were raised. The Future of Foster Care: A Revolution for Change details the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s (CCAI) Foster Youth Internship (FYI) recommendations on improving hot-button issues ranging from immigration, education, mentoring, psychotropic drugs, child abuse, and government accountability. All of the topics reported are those that the youth felt motivated by personal experience to present. The report serves as a blueprint for Members of Congress interested in advancing foster care reform. The 2011 FYI Report is the fourth in a series from which several previous recommendations are in the process of becoming law.
“The 2011 FYI briefing and report should teach us two simple, but profound lessons,” said Kathleen Strottman, Executive Director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI), “that we are too often failing to provide youth in foster care with the everyday things that ANY child needs to thrive, and more importantly, the children who do receive these supports, have the potential to be our future leaders.”
The report’s authors delivered compelling highlights of the report to Members of Congress at a briefing last week. Their main message: “We have potential. Don’t let the foster care system write us off.” The youth, 15 leaders from across the country who, due to abuse or neglect, spent the majority of their lives in foster care, were interns for Members of Congress this summer including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). Their mission is to speak for the almost 410,000 children still in the foster care system – children who are being left behind.
“It’s a shame it takes a death of a child for policymakers to take notice of psychotropic medication abuse within child welfare agencies. How many more foster children have to die before policymakers and child welfare professionals realize that this is a national crisis and not a state-to-state issue? We need to hold states accountable for the safety of these children by creating a national benchmark,” said former foster youth Madison Sandoval-Lunn from Las Vegas.
Marjorie Delgadillo, a former foster youth from California, called on Members to take action on behalf of immigrant children in foster care, who make up 10 percent of children in care. Delgadillo was specifically concerned with children whose parents were undocumented. According to Delgadillo, “The real tragedy is that while the federal government provided some special protections for these vulnerable children almost 20 years ago, states are simply not using them to protect kids.”
Several of the youth stressed the importance of education, an area that is consistently overlooked. As a result, only 50 percent of youth in foster care graduate from high school, and less than 3 percent go on to graduate from college. Insight as to why this is the case and ways that it can be improved are included in the full report.
“Each year some of the most passionate and upstanding young men and women are a part of CCAI’s Foster Youth Internship program. They come to Washington not only as interns, but as the collective voice of every child in the U.S. foster care system,” said Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.), co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, “It is a privilege to continue to work alongside these tremendous youth as they fight for the much needed change in child welfare policy.”
Representative Karen Bass (D-Calif.), also a Coalition co-chair, stated “CCAI deserves tremendous credit for giving opportunity to former foster youth through their inspiring internship program. The participants are champions who are overcoming the odds to make a difference in their lives and in the welfare of their communities. We will be hearing for years to come about the achievements of these wonderful young leaders.”
Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), also a Coalition co-chair added “Each summer, CCAI’s Foster Youth Interns fill a valuable role in offices across Capitol Hill. As a foster mother of 23, I know these young people have overcome tremendous challenges in their short lives. I commend the foster youth for doing exceptional work during their internships and I wish them every bit of success in their future. I am confident CCAI will continue their excellent work running the Foster Youth Internship Program which provides these youth with important experience and a taste of Capitol Hill.”