2010 FYI Recognized by the St. Petersburg Times

The St. Petersburg Times recognized Nicole Marchman, one of CCAI’s 2010 Foster Youth Interns, for her involvement with their local nonprofit agency, Ready for Life. Nicole holds a youth council position for this non-profit, community organization that prepares foster youth for adulthood. CCAI is extremely thankful for Nicole and her continued commitment to using her experience in foster care to become a voice for children across the nation.

The black and white suitcase on Nicole Marchman’s bed was crammed with Beltway-worthy clothes she’d scooped up at discount prices. Marchman, 28, a recent University of South Florida honors graduate, was heading to the nation’s capital for a two-month internship. This was her life almost a dozen foster homes and 17 years since a social worker took her from her parents’ house clutching a black garbage bag stuffed with her belongings. She was 11.

Click here to read the full story at tampabay.com

The Beginning of Summer – 2010 FYI Program

On May 29th, 11 former foster youth boarded planes at different airports around the country.  Their hearts were beating fast and their minds raced as they dreamt about the 9 weeks ahead.   Many of them must have hesitated to even board the plane.  It must have taken an incredible amount of faith to spend the summer away from home, living with a person they had never met, and working in an office they could barely find on a map.  Even with all of this uncertainty, all 11 Congressional Foster Youth Interns arrived on CCAI’s doorstep and we were thrilled to welcome them to Washington.

Almost as soon as the interns arrived, we had them pack a weekend bag and head to Danville, PA for the annual retreat.  Once arriving in Danville, I think the interns understood why after all of these years, we still return to such a small town in the middle of Pennsylvania.  Danville is idyllic and although I have been there several times, I am still surprised at the town’s overabundance of smiles and waves.

FYI 2010 Interns in front of the Danville mural

This year was much like retreats in the past.  We spent time getting to know one another, discussing what mark each intern wants to make while in DC, and what fears the interns are facing as they reflect on the upcoming two months.  They arrived 100 W. Market Street in Danville as 11 different people and left as a one, united around the mission of making a difference for the hundreds of thousands of children in foster care.

After the retreat, we returned to Washington and began orientation.  CCAI does all it can to make sure that the interns are prepared for their Congressional internships.  In that vein, we planned several informative sessions like “Dress to Impress,” “Rules of the Road,” and “Safety First.”  We had guest speakers including the Congressional Research Service who conducted a two-hour training tailored specifically for our interns and their interest in foster care policy.  Additionally, we invited key Congressional staff, Administration staff, and foster care advocacy leaders for a welcome lunch to share tips on making the most of a Washington internship.

As the interns embarked on their first day of work yesterday, I cannot help but be a little envious of their time in Congress.  I know that each of them will have a unique experience in Congress and it will inevitably shape their future for the better.  I am still struck by the amount of courage it took for each of these young leaders to believe the voice on the other end of the phone guaranteeing a summer internship full of opportunity and excitement.  Lucky for us, these interns did believe us and in my short time with them, I know their determination to succeed will make this a fantastic summer.

My first week in Washington, DC

Prior to my arrival in Washington, DC last week I was nervous about leaving my support group back home, acclimating to an unfamiliar area, and as ridiculous as it may sound, making a friend. So far I can say with certainty that I’ve made ten–my fellow CCAI Foster Youth Interns. Over the past seven days, I have bonded with each fellow intern in ways that I never knew possible. While we have traveled from all over the US to work in Washington, DC for the summer, we share one thing in common: we survived the foster care system, and have come here to lend a voice to past, present, and future foster youth.

2010 FYI Class on the retreat in Danville, PA (Sarah, front row, 2nd from left)

Upon meeting the fellow interns, I realized that they were just as nervous as I was. However, it didn’t take long before we were sharing stories and planning activities together. The day after our arrival we headed to a retreat in Danville, Pennsylvania, a small town with a population of 4,000. The town was warm and welcoming, and we were more than excited to be staying in a historical home that was once part of the Underground Railroad. There we engaged in group activities that encouraged us to bond, all while learning about what to expect from our summer in DC. The retreat also gave us the opportunity to learn more about CCAI, its staff members, and supporters whose generosity and dedication made this all possible.

After a long and exciting first week as a Foster Youth Intern, we are anxious to begin interning in our various congressional offices. While we are all nervous and don’t know what to expect, we do know that we have each other to lean on.

-Sarah Pauter, 2010 Foster Youth Intern

A Kid at Disney World

Washington DC: The cornerstone of the world. The place where so many fights have been won, injustices have been righted, and dreams have come true.

I have dreams. Dreams of one day becoming an official that aids in running this wonderful country that I live in. That’s why when I received notice that I would be a CCAI Foster Youth Intern placed in the office of Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, I related the experience to a kid fulfilling a dream of going to the infamous Disney World for the first time.

I immediately started to correlate politicians to characters thought of in the slumber of children across the world. Many people travel far and beyond to come to Disney world, so the match was made of the individuals I would interact with in the diverse city of Washington.

In addition, I envisioned every rollercoaster as an illustrious building or monument that is placed throughout the metropolitan region. I even went on to correlate places to dine in Disney World, to eateries such as Ben’s Chilli Bowl, where all my friends declared I needed to eat.

Although, I know Washington is going to be an amazing experience, I have in the forefront of my mind the solemn purpose for my journey: to make strides in the direction for improvement to foster care policy. So when I see a “Mickey Mouse” or getting ready to go to “Space Mountain” in Washington I will do my best to relay the issues that are not only close to my heart but the hearts of my other foster care brothers and sisters.

-Victor Horton, 2010 Foster Youth Intern

Victor at the 2010 FYI Retreat to Danville, PA

Finding homes for older kids in foster care.

Advocates in this field all know the horrific statistic that there are currently over 175,000 youth age 13 and older in the foster care system.  And each year, almost 30,000 youth ‘age out‘ of the foster care system to devastating outcomes of homelessness, incarceration, unemployment, or substance abuse.

The current issue of Fostering Families Today includes an article titled “Choosing Teens,” about one family’s experience with adopting an older youth in foster care.  Denise and Bruce Kendrick from Texas were foster parents to younger children in care for years before realizing the horrible fact that there are tens of thousand of youth who will never know what it is like to belong in a family.  One day, while reviewing the local Child Protective Services (CPS) website for educational updates they read the profiles of teenagers who were in need of homes.  They scrolled through page after page of older teens waiting for someone to want and love them.  The Kendricks instantly knew that they wanted to adopt an older teen. They inquired about one of the profiles they read and spoke with a worker at CPS who began the process of trying connect Denise and Bruce with the teenager they fell in love with while on the website.

After starting the adoption process they received a phone call informing them that an out-of-state relative had emerged and wanted to adopt the teen.  Though they were saddened they would not be able to complete the adoption, they did not lose sight of their desire to provide a family for a teen in care.  Denise and Bruce soon found another teenage boy, Brandan.  They were prepared for and were determined to make Brandan a part of their family.  Although Brandan did suffer from attachment issues he was given the helped he needed professionally and the love he need personally.

The article closes by saying, “Brandan is finding joy in the little things these days, like a dad who knows how he likes his burger cooked, and a mom who packs his lunch.  The clock is ticking toward […] a time that for teens who are never adopted brings great hardship and for many, grim outcomes.  But Brandan is a teen who was chosen.”

Last month, CCAI hosted a Congressional briefing to draw attention to the need for better foster adoptive parent recruitment models to be used in the field and supported by the federal government.  This article goes to show that innovative methods, such as online photolisting, is just one effective way that older youth in care can find a family to call their own.