“We Are the Keys” – CCAI’s 2017 Foster Youth Interns Release Report and Recommendations

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute Announces the Release of its 2017 Foster Youth Internship Program® Policy Report: Unlocking Potential: The Strength of Our Stories as the Key to Child Welfare Reform.

CCAI’s Foster Youth Interns present their policy report recommendations at a congressional briefing on July 18, 2017.

Congratulations to the 2017 CCAI Foster Youth Internship Program® class on the release of their policy report, Unlocking Potential: The Strength of Our Stories as the Key to Child Welfare Reform. 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. Tuesday, at a congressional briefing, our talented Foster Youth Interns presented this report containing 30 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!

Justin Abasi (SC): Improving Access to and Awareness of Behavioral Health Services for Transition-Age Adolescents in Out-of-Home Care

  • Congress should amend Section 477 of the Social Security Act to improve the availability of trauma-informed, evidence-based psychosocial services to transition-age adolescents via additional grants and technical assistance.
  • Congress should amend Section 477 of the Social Security Act to improve the accessibility of trauma-informed, evidence-based psychosocial services to transition-age adolescents via additional funding for wraparound services.
  • Congress should amend Section 475(5)(G) of the Social Security Act to ensure that transition-age adolescents are aware of how they can access those services.

Keola Limkin (HI): Ensuring Normalcy for Foster Youth by Establishing Youth-Friendly Children’s Ombudsman Offices

  • Congress should require states to establish a youth-friendly Children’s Ombudsman Office (COO)/Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) in every US State.
  • Congress should ensure that COO/OCA are established independently with oversight of child welfare services.
  • Congress should ensure that COO/OCA have online complaint filing forms that are youth friendly.

Michael Teresa Mellifera (OH): Reforming the Criminal Justice System’s Response to Delinquency: Ensuring Equity of Access to Diversion Programs for Crossover Youth

  • “Congress should add another core compliance requirement to the JJDPA called “Disproportionate Crossover Youth Contact,” or DCYC, which shall become a condition for receipt of the Title II Formula Grants Program.”
  • Congress should require the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create a joint-commission tasked with developing uniform federal standards for graduated sanctions systems and diversion program eligibility, with particular focus on crossover youth issues.

Tonisha Hora (WI): Saving Children’s Lives by Implementing an Interstate Data Sharing System and Minimum Screening Standards

  • For the safety of children, Congress should implement certain minimum and uniform standards regarding state policies that govern central registries of child abuse and neglect reports and the expunction of those reports. A new federal minimum standard should specify that any two or more reports of a specific child must be screened-in and an investigation required. In addition, record of reports should be maintained for no fewer than 25 years or even indefinitely.
  • Congress should require states to participate in an interstate data sharing network of information in states’ central registries of child abuse and neglect reports and require that all reports made (screened-in and screened-out) be retained.
  • Congress should require HHS to convene an expert panel to guide the technical and legal aspects of implementing these recommendations. The panel should advise on policies to ensure privacy rights of children and adults.

Demontea Thompson (CA): Anomalies No More: Modifying Education and Training Vouchers (ETC) to Enhance Postsecondary Educational Attainment for Foster Youth

  • Congress should make postsecondary education more accessible to current and former foster youth by increasing the ETV from $5,000 to $10,000 in the ETV to account for the rise in tuition, living expenses, and rent.
  • Congress should amend the ETC to include the provision to allow foster youth to pay for college related expenses before they enroll.

Alexis Arambul (WA): Reducing the Number of Foster Youth Placements through Youth-Centered Strategies

  • Congress should require state child welfare agencies to use youth-centered recruitment models based on evidence-based strategies and best practice models.
  • Congress should collect quantitative data from states who utilize technological services targeted to child welfare agencies to help match children with foster families

Htet Htet Rodgers (LA): Low Hanging Fruit: Harnessing the Data States Already Collect

  • Congress should create a national foster youth taxonomy so that transferring data between states is easier.
  • Congress should require states to transfer data annually to the federal government so it can produce a public report.
  • Congress should create accounts for foster youth with the taxonomy, so they can access their records when needed.

Jameshia Shepherd (MI): Leveling the Playing Field through Awareness to a World of Educational Opportunity

  • Congress should mandate that an educational and career expert participate at biannual case planning meetings for youth in care starting at age 14, and ensure accountability through the case review process.
  • Congress should ensure that youth who are preparing to exit foster care are aware and utilizing educational resources, Congress should strengthen the time period for planning and completing the transition plan by including an educational plan with the youth’s assigned case planning educational expert 365 days before the youth exits care.

Tiffany Boyd (CA): Simply Put: We Deserve Quality

  • Congress must direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish an expert panel that includes researchers, program directors, parents, youth, and other community partners to reassess the CFSR measures as they pertain to the quality of care standard.
  • Congress needs to examine the outcomes of state CFSRs and Performance Improvement Plans and develop policies such as incentives, to ensure that states do more to improve the quality of services for children and youth in foster care. Federal policies could establish certain standards for quality of services, similar to how the federal government established quality of care standards for federally funded health services; states who exceed the standard in the CFSR should be allotted an incentive payment or an increased matching rate.
  • Congress should require each state agency responsible for overseeing the care of our children to establish within their charter, a commission comprised of stakeholders including but not limited to current and emancipated clients, legal guardians, custodial grandparents, and parents who lost then regained the custody of their children, elected government officials, representatives of state agencies. Every director should meet with this commission regularly to utilize these individuals’ first-hand experience and specialized knowledge as it pertains to navigating the system and needs to require the consent of the commission when introducing new strategies, implementing new policies, and seeking innovative ideas to transform the child welfare system.

Eden Harris (D.C.): Virtual Success Coaches: Connecting Foster Youth with Modern Technology

  • Congress should fund a competitive pilot program that assigns virtual success coaches to millennials/generation Z between ages 14 and 18 using a virtual platform.
  • Congress should extend federal loan forgiveness to eligible success coaches to encourage the participation of highly qualified individuals.

Alexandria Ware (KS): Increasing Social Emotional Support for Foster Youth on College Campuses by adding a Single Point of Contact Models and Mentors

  • Congress should require every higher education institution that receives federal financial aid to establish a “Single Point of Contact” (SPOC) model for students who were previously in foster care.
  • Congress should require that, when a university receives a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form with “yes” for Section 2, Question 2 that the university contact the matriculating student to ask if he or she may be identified as foster youth for additional supports, like mentors.

Jameelah A. Love (WI): Foster Care Bill of Rights

  • Congress should direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop a federal foster care bill of rights for youth in foster care. To develop the foster care bill of rights, HHS should convene a workgroup comprised of foster youth, foster and birth parents, caseworkers and other agency staff, judicial officials, children’s advocates.
  • Congress should amend the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act by requiring that youth receive a list of rights starting at age 12 so that they are aware of their rights and to receive an annual updated document.
  • Congress should enforce the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act pertaining to foster youth being given a list of these federal rights and that stakeholders (judges, attorneys, caseworkers, medical professionals, foster parents etc.) are given training on what rights are afforded to foster youth.

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.