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.

U.S. Representative Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) 
Rep. Brenda Lawrence and FYI Princess Harmon
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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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.

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