A Special Message from a Foster Care Alumnus to Our Veterans

A Special Message from a Foster Care Alumnus to Our Veterans from Terry Scraggins, CCAI 2018 Foster Youth Intern 

As we celebrate National Adoption Month and Veterans Day this November, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) honors all our Veterans, as well as our Foster Youth Interns and Angels in Adoption® Honorees who have served (and are serving) in our military. We asked Terrence (Terry) Scraggins, one of our 2018 Foster Youth Interns and a service member in the U.S. Navy, to share about himself and offer a message to our Veterans.

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Terry with the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, Richard V. Spencer, this summer during the Foster Youth Internship Program®.
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Terry in front of the U.S. Capitol Building this summer. 

Hi everyone! I’m Terry Scraggins.  I am currently in my junior year at Boise State University’s BSW Social Work Program.  I’m also a part-time barista at a local coffee shop here in Boise, Idaho.

Without a doubt I can say that my favorite memory from the Foster Youth Internship Program this summer has to be the Congressional and White House briefing.  Spending the summer with CCAI is an experience only a handful of individuals have the privilege to participate in! Being provided a platform to advocate for tens of thousands of youth in the broken foster care system was empowering and has me yearning to do more.

I have always been a bit of an overachiever in life. The goals I set for myself continuously vary and change depending on what my focus is. I’m planning to complete my bachelor’s in social work by the spring of 2020. At that point, I will decide which path I would like to take on next. I have not yet decided on whether I want to immediately further my education by obtaining a Masters in Social Work or if I want to return to the Navy; fearlessly attempting to become a Naval Officer. I have realized that the United States Navy has prepared me for either path.

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Terry while he was serving time in the Navy. 

Joining the Navy helped me find my voice.  It stripped me down and built me back up again. It showed me I could accomplish anything, as long as I fought for it and put in hard work and dedication. Whenever I get discouraged in any facet of life, I reflect on past Naval experiences and I remember how I was able to get through 18-hour work days when we were out at sea. It is then when many other things in life don’t look too bad anymore.

CCAI and the Foster Youth Internship Program has made quite the impression on my future goals. If I was not given the opportunity to participate in the Foster Youth Internship Program, I never would have realized my passion for policy work and I wouldn’t have realized the impact my passion for policy would have on my future goals and plans. The FYI Program pointed me in the direction of these goals by helping me gain a wealth of knowledge that I would not have gained without this experience.

Other goals aside from my career, include starting a family and becoming a foster and adoptive parent one day, once I am well-established. In the meantime, to take care of myself in this extremely busy lifestyle, I run. I’ve completed two half-marathons and am currently training for a full marathon next summer!

Since my internship this summer, I have continued to be involved and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, specifically those within the child welfare system. Recently, I wrote an op-ed published within The Chronicle of Social Change.  Additionally, I’ve been working with the Family Equality Council to raise awareness about the LGBTQ+ community within foster care.

What is your message to our veterans as we celebrate Veterans Day this year?

Thank you so much for serving our country and signing that dotted line.  Most will never know the full-extent and duties you signed up for when you enlisted.  To those who have lost their lives for our country, thank you for paying the ultimate price so that we can continue to be free.

Terrence (Terry) Scraggins was a participant in the 2018 Foster Youth Internship Program®, one of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s signature programs. To learn more about ways you can get involved with the Foster Youth Interns or National Adoption Month, please visit us at www.ccainstitute.org and contact Kate McLean at kate@ccainstitute.org. 

Adoption Gives 2018

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Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute
311 Massachusetts Ave, NE, Washington, DC 20002

 

The 20th Annual Angels in Adoption® Program: A Photo Recap

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CCAI’s Angels in Adoption® Program consists of ten events spanning three days of events in Washington, D.C. where individual advocates, families and organizations who have made an extraordinary contribution in the lives of children through adoption or foster care are celebrated by Members of Congress. Our 2018 Angels in Adoption® Honorees joined over 2,600 alum of the program when they traveled to Washington two weeks ago.

Check out some of the highlights from the 20th Annual Angels in Adoption® Program!

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2018 Angels in Adoption® Honorees started their week learning about CCAI and other child welfare organizations at CCAI’s Advocacy Fair.
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We love to hear about the amazing work that our Angels have done for children all across the nation.
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Congressional Coalition on Adoption Member, Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), presents his Angel, Ms. Jevonda Pauls, with her Angels in Adoption® Award at the Congressional Senate Breakfast and Pin Ceremony.
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Congressional Coalition on Adoption Co-Chair, Representative Robert Aderholt (R-AL), with the Nail family at the Congressional House Luncheon and Pin Ceremony.
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Congressional Coalition on Adoption Co-Chair, Representative Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), gives closing remarks at the Congressional House Luncheon and Pin Ceremony.
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Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) meets with Angels from the Bossier KIDS organization and the Gros Family during an Angels in Adoption® Hill Day meeting.
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D.C. radio personality, Tommy McFly, emcees the Angels in Adoption® Gala.
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Congressional Coalition on Adoption Co-Chair, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), delivers opening remarks for the 20th Annual Angels in Adoption® Program Gala.
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Congressional Coalition on Adoption Co-Chair, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), gives remarks at the gala.
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Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (left) and Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin gave joint remarks on a plan for a nationwide commitment to eliminate the foster care backlog in the United States.
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Former Senator Mary Landrieu (left) introduces 2018 National Angels in Adoption® Claudette and Jack Gerard (not pictured).

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We hope you enjoyed this photo recap of CCAI’s 20th Annual Angels in Adoption® Program. Feel free to share this blog post with others, and be sure to follow CCAI on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Remember to use the hashtag #adoptionangels!

If you would like to make a donation to CCAI’s Angels in Adoption® Program and our mission of children in families, please visit www.ccainstitute.org/get-involved/donate.

 

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The Angels in Adoption® Program is a signature program of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

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.

Life as a Foster Youth Intern: Brittney Barros

By BRITTNEY BARROS

June 29, 2018

I started off my Monday nervous. I looked at my intern calendar first thing in the morning and saw I was assigned to my first Capitol Visitors Center (CVC) tour. The beautiful architecture of the Capitol is quite intimidating. How could I express in words to the visitors the historical background this building has? I studied my tour notes anxiously hoping that I would be able to provide the most insightful tour the visitors had ever received. “Brittney, your tour is ready,” I hear my Intern Coordinator call out to me. I greeted my first tour with a big smile and welcoming heart, ready to show them our Nation’s most powerful establishment.

First, we entered the Crypt; next, the Rotunda, making our way through the oldest Supreme Court Chamber and analyzing the exact moments in history where the founding fathers met to establish our Country. After the tour, I thanked them for coming. They praised me for how good of a job I did and how much of an impact the tour had on their knowledge of history and their trip. I share this story to reflect on how as a congressional intern I can impact people’s lives.

Later that week, I had the opportunity to participate in a Latina Leaders Summit for Latinas that want to run for office one day, which fits me perfectly. I heard stories of perseverance from Latina congresswomen, such as State Senator Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) and U.S. Representative Norma Torres (D-CA). They spoke about their trials and tribulations in running for office. Hearing their testimony inspired me as a young Latina with dreams of becoming a public servant.

Finally, to top off the end of the week, I witnessed an immigration protest with over 600 activists fighting for immigrant rights, ending detention camps, and reuniting families. This protest took place at the Hart Senate Building, right where my office is! I looked down from the 7th floor as the protestors chanted “Where are the children?” “We care,” and “Abolish ICE.” I felt goosebumps throughout my body as this organized chaos continued to fight for change. This protest reflected that the power belongs to the people.

I have had amazing opportunities through CCAI and my congressional office. From serving constituents by giving them tours, to witnessing a powerful protest, to going to events impacting my identity and community, this dual internship has provided me with everlasting memories, opportunities, and people with whom I can connect.

Life as a Foster Youth Intern: Amber Lindamood

Just…Listen

By AMBER LINDAMOOD

February 14, 2018.
I’m sitting in a middle row in my Social Work 506 Research Methods class, feeling like I’m about to throw up, hands sweating, heart racing. My phone rings. As it vibrates on my desk, I stare at it in wonder—not knowing if I should answer it or not, knowing it holds information that will change my summer….and life.

A month prior, I had just started my second quarter of grad school. I was feeling fresh, excited to be taking a different set of classes, and eager for new opportunities. Researching TedTalks for an assignment late one night, I came across an opportunity of a lifetime: a D.C. internship designed specifically for foster youth. This summer-long internship allows foster care alumni the opportunity to write a child welfare policy report that reflects personal experience and best practices. The interns present this report to Members of Congress at the end of the summer. I Googled it to see if it was legit (it was) and found out I had a little over a week to complete all of the required application materials.

I grabbed my backpack, and after what seemed like a LIFETIME, I went outside and answered my phone. I was greeted by a kind voice from a woman in D.C. stating, “This year we had a large number of applicants, and while we were impressed with your application and resume….”

Was my essay not profound? Does this agency really care about the future of kids just like me? Am I not good enough? Smart enough? Why don’t they like me?

“…we’re excited to offer you a spot in this year’s Foster Youth Internship Program.”

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

June 20, 2018.
Celebrating my fourth week in D.C., I close my notebook and begin to cry. It’s been a long and emotionally draining week, and though many emotions have been stirred in my heart, I don’t feel alone.

I was removed from my biological family at the age of six due to severe allegations of abuse and neglect. Food insecurity, addiction, and physical and emotional abuse are all parts of my story that brought me into care. Many times my lived experience left me feeling isolated and alone, and I felt that no one understood or truly cared about what I was going through. All I wanted was someone to listen to and invest in me, and for the longest time, I didn’t have that—or feel worthy enough to receive it.

I sit at my desk after finishing a heart-wrenching constituent phone call, and I’m brought back to this space. In the back of my mind, I see myself as a little girl, big brown eyes sparkling, looking to my mother for some sign of visibility and recognition.

As I center myself back into the current moment, I begin to realize my past experiences weren’t all in vain, and that this feeling isn’t truly a phenomenon. The longing to be heard and valued are expressed and felt by folks all over the world, and working in my congressional office has provided me with a tiny glimpse of these experiences all over the country.

How would our world be different if we made listening and validation a normal part of life?

How would this change our families, communities, and government?

As I continue on my policy writing and self-actualization journey, I encourage you to join me by reflecting on your personal life experiences and how you invest into the lives of people around you. What are your passions? How can we use our strengths to better others?  When was the last time we set our phones aside, looked someone in the eyes, and just soaked in the moment?

I truly believe that everyone longs to be seen and valued, and all we need to do is listen.

Life as a Foster Youth Intern: Terrence Scraggins

By TERRENCE SCRAGGINS

Like many applicants to CCAI’s extremely competitive Foster Youth Internship (FYI) Program®, I applied to this internship multiple times. The first time I applied was several years ago. It was spring of 2009, and I was a new high school graduate with only a year and a half of college under my belt. I was not yet well-versed on or even ready to take such a big leap into the intimidating Capitol Hill lifestyle. Here I am nearly ten years later, and I made the cut!

If you had asked me ten years ago if I had planned to fail out of school, join the US Navy, return to that same school and recently be admitted to Boise State University’s School of Social Work, I would’ve laughed. Yet, here I am doing it with pride!

Don’t be fooled though; it isn’t all fun and games. There is definitely a lot of fun involved, but there is also so much hard work and dedication asked of me.

When I accepted this internship, I had no idea what to expect. As a foster care alum, I knew from experience that you should never try to set expectations concerning the unknown as it typically only sets you up for disappointment. The Foster Youth Internship Program® is such a unique program. I chose to set no expectations, and for that, I am so glad.

So far, this has been one of the greatest and most humbling experiences I have been fortunate enough to be involved with. I get to tell my story while also working with and meeting individuals who can make an impact—people who have the ability to make history through policies and laws.

Having 11 other brilliant and like-minded adults as fellow FYIs whose stories and backgrounds are similar to mine has been so helpful. When we first arrived, we attended a retreat where we had quality bonding time. I learned so much about myself as well as about each individual’s specific story. Feeling support from peers who have gone and are going through similar aspects of my life was so rewarding. We have a connection many others are unable to attain. We are all using our own life experiences, both positive and negative, to foster change. This is extremely empowering for me! Not to mention the positive vibe we all have. Not once have I felt made fun of or judged for the way I think or what I say.

On a lighter note, having never been to our nation’s capital before this internship, I can’t get enough of D.C. culture! As a beginning/intermediate runner, I’ve begun to incorporate national landmarks into my runs. On our second or third day here, a couple of my fellow cohort members and I ran to the Abraham Lincoln Memorial. I’ve also run to the Washington Monument, the WWII Memorial and along the Potomac River. I would have to say the most impactful monument I have been to thus far was the WWII Memorial. The history and meaning behind it gave me chills. This memorial shed new light on our country’s history and culture. I hope to visit the African American History Museum as well as the Holocaust Memorial Museum as these are also crucial pages in American history.

What I’m trying to say in not so many words is that CCAI is doing great things. To say I’m in D.C. is a blessing within itself. I sincerely look forward to continuing to immerse myself in our nation’s capital and its intricate culture. I also look forward to helping pave the way for youth in care who need us now more than ever. They are the real heroes and deserve so much credit.

If you haven’t been to our nation’s capital yet, you must go at some point—it will change your life!