Tools for Transformation: Building a Compassionate Child Welfare System – CCAI’s 2018 Foster Youth Interns Release Report and Recommendations

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The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute announces the release of the 2018 Foster Youth Internship Program® Policy Report: Tools for Transformation: Building a Compassionate Child Welfare System.

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Congratulations to our 15th Anniversary Foster Youth Internship (FYI) Program® class on the release of their policy report, Tools for Transformation: Building a Compassionate Child Welfare System! Each of our ten Foster Youth Interns spent the summer not only interning on Capitol Hill but also researching, writing and publishing a report of recommendations on reforming the U.S. child welfare system. Using their personal experiences, the Foster Youth Interns proposed concrete actions that Congress could take to improve child welfare policy.

CCAI’s 15th Anniversary Class of Foster Youth Interns presented their policy report recommendations at a congressional briefing on July 17, 2018, and a White House Administration Briefing on Foster Care Reform on July 23, 2018.

For eleven 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 legislation that helps the over 437,000 children in the U.S. foster care system.

Read the 2018 report here.

Read a summary of their recommendations below:

Brittney Barros (MI): Paving the Way to Sibling Connections

  • Congress should create and pass a National Sibling Bill of Rights, based off of state legislative models, that provides specific guidance on keeping siblings together.
  • Congress should authorize the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to establish a competitive grant program to encourage state child welfare agencies to develop specialized foster care programs designed specifically for sibling groups with a large number, a wide age range, and complex needs.
  • Congress should urge HHS to release, without delay, the December 2016 Final Rule on the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) which contains critical data elements related to sibling placement and separation.

Calli Crowder (OH): Building a Bridge to Adulthood: Supporting Foster Parents So Youth Can Thrive

  • Congress should authorize funds to direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide state child welfare agencies with technical assistance to help them maximize enhanced federal IV-E training dollars to expand and improve foster parent training.
  • Congress should authorize HHS to establish a new National Foster and Adoptive Parents Database (NFAPD) that requires state child welfare agencies to collect and submit key data on foster parents, relative caregivers and adoptive families.
  • Congress should establish a new pool of federal funding that allows states to reimburse foster families for the additional costs of critical youth development and enrichment activities that enhance normalcy, stability and a successful transition into adulthood.

Shay House (CA): One Home, One School: Investing in Placement and Educational Stability for Foster Youth

  • Congress should test targeted community-based recruitment to preserve children’s community connections
  • Congress should ensure training that equips foster parents with the necessary skill set to effectively serve this demographic of youth.
  • Congress should create peer support networks for foster parents.

Cortney Jones (TX): Ensuring Children’s Well-Being by Supporting Kinship Caregivers

  • Congress should allow states to use Title IV-E foster care dollars to fund kinship care services and supports.
  • States must include in their Title IV-E plan details on how they will ensure that all kinship families are made aware of the full range of options and services available through the child welfare agency and in the community.
  • Congress should expand and add additional funding to the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) of the Older Americans Act to ensure that kinship caregivers have access to legal representation.

Noor Kathem (AZ): Connecting Unaccompanied Refugee Minors with Culturally-Competent Foster Families and Comprehensive Support Services

  • Congress should authorize the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement to provide competitive grants that allow states to establish comprehensive Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Navigator Programs that connect URMs with appropriate resources and help them navigate across multiple systems.
  • Congress should direct HHS’s Administration of Children, Youth and Families to establish a competitive program that allows states to develop targeted strategies to recruit and train culturally-competent, trauma-informed foster families for URMs.

Amber Lindamood (WA): Tools for Opportunity: An In-Depth Look at Childhood Trauma and Prevention Services

  • Congress should increase funding for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) programs that allow states to create and expand Family Resource Centers.
  • Congress should require that states include in their Title IV-E state plan details on how standardized assessment tools will be used to identify and address children’s needs.
  • Congress should establish a National Commission to make necessary recommendations to revise the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

Ixchel Martinez (CA): Addressing the Needs of a Nation

  • Congress should authorize competitive state grants through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to assist in the development and implementation of evidence-based and trauma-informed schools that can then be brought to scale across the nation.
  • Congress should direct the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education to collect additional data elements on the educational outcomes of youth in foster care, including attendance, graduation rates, dropout rates, number of foster youth with a learning or developmental disability, number of foster youth receiving IEP services, standardized test scores, suspensions and expulsion rates, grade promotion/retention rates, and number of foster youth enrolled in Low-Performing Schools to be reported in its national data collection efforts through the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS).

Alison Myers (IL): Transforming Extended Foster Care: More Meaningful Preparation for a Brighter Future

  • Congress should require all states to extend foster care to age 21, and give them the option to extend to age 23 while providing states with additional funding grants to implement this requirement.
  • Congress should replace both the current transition plan and the requirements to receive extended care services with the single obligation of following an “Individualized Advancement Plan” (IAP). The IAP would dually serve as a transitional plan from ages 16 – 18 and as the conditions to receive extended care services from ages 18– 23.

Terrence Scraggins (ID): Acceptance and Empowerment: Helping LGBTQ+ Youth in Foster Care through Training, Data Collection and Non-Discrimination Laws

  • HHS should swiftly implement the 2016 Final Rule on AFCARS, including the data elements related to LGBTQ+ youth in foster care. States should begin screening youth, on a voluntary basis, on whether they identify as LGBTQ+.
  • Congress must pass the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (S. 1303/H.R. 2640) to ensure more individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ can become foster parents.
  • Congress should require states to provide training for youth, foster parents and professionals working within the child welfare system on the needs of LGBTQ+ youth in foster care.

Jordan Sosa (CA): You Must Learn: Connecting Foster Youth to Social Capital and Higher Education

  • Congress should authorize grant programs to fund and scale programs like Guardian Scholars in California, which provides comprehensive supports to young people in college who have spent time in the foster care system.
  • Congress should pass the Foster Youth Mentoring Act (H.R. 2952) which creates a grant program within Title IV-B of the Social Security Act to provide mentoring programs for youth in foster care.
  • Congress should pass the Mentoring to Succeed Act (S. 1658) which amends the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 to give the Department of Education the authority to award grants to school-based mentoring programs to assist at-risk students in middle and high school.

We thank all of our Foster Youth Interns for their hard work this summer! We look forward to seeing the results of their recommendations. Learn more about CCAI’s Foster Youth Internship Program® here.

Contact Kate McLean at kate@ccainstitute.org to learn more about the ways you can support 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 advocates.

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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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