The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s Foster Youth Internship (FYI) Program® brings a cohort of young adults who have experienced the foster care system to intern in congressional offices on Capitol Hill and publish policy recommendations to best support young people impacted by the foster care system.
After serving on a specialized COVID-19 Foster Youth Intern Pandemic Working Group, the 2021 Foster Youth Interns went on to intern for congressional offices this summer and have authored Building the Path Forward for Change in the Child Welfare System based on their experiences and expertise.
The report included the following recommendations for Congress:
- Maintain sibling relationships in and after foster care by requiring post-adoption contact agreements for siblings – Alan Abutin
- Ensure tribal youth maintain family and tribal connections and are actively provided with opportunities and support to reunite with family by requiring states to provide and finance active efforts to prevent the breakup of American Indian and Alaska Native families as a condition of child welfare funding under title IV-E – Autumn Adams
- Address housing barriers to keeping siblings together by creating a housing fund for states to cover eligible expenses for kin and non-kin foster families who do not have enough space in their current housing situation to meet the federal and state requirements to keep siblings together – Cortez Carey
- Increase mental health supports for youth aging out of foster care by requiring a mental health screening be conducted 60 days before youth age out of foster care by trauma-informed professionals; requiring child welfare professionals be trained in the National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training Initiative; ensuring Medicaid covers individual therapy and telehealth therapy services for current and former foster youth; and mandating that the National Youth in Training Database measure trauma and healing outcomes – Hailey D’Elia
- Better address maltreatment in foster care by offering state incentives to encourage implementation of an independent foster youth-specific ombudsman who collects and reports data and policy recommendations publicly and improving data collection through survey questions on maltreatment in foster care – Laila-Rose Hudson
- Create trauma-informed schools and provide educators with the tools needed to help students heal from the trauma they have experienced in foster care by offering funding for in-service training on trauma-informed support; recruitment and retainment of school counselors, social workers, and psychologists; and innovative strategies to ensure that trauma-informed skills and knowledge are effectively integrated into the hiring process in school districts with high concentrations of Black youth in foster care – Isabelle Goodrich
- Increase access to advanced degree programs for current and former foster youth by providing federal funding to statewide nonprofit organizations that offer support services to foster youth pursuing advanced degrees and collecting data and research on the number and outcomes of current and former foster youth pursuing advanced degrees – Makayla James
- Strengthen child welfare to meet the needs of tribal youth by establishing an advisory board of tribal youth, elders, and other community representatives to develop effective strategies in order to address race equity and the disproportionate representation of indigenous children and youth in the child welfare system as well as collecting and analyzing data on tribal foster youth in the child welfare system – Shanell Lavallie
- Ensure foster youth have access to their Social Security benefits by prohibiting state agencies from taking more than 33% of a foster child’s SSI and OASDI benefits for food and clothing; requiring that the child’s parents, guardians, or caregivers be notified annually if a child welfare agency is taking the child’s social security benefits; and requiring states to disclose their practices for how they notify children when states are taking their benefits – Ian Marx
- Strengthen support and services for pregnant and parenting youth (PPY) in foster care by implementing a nationwide program similar to LA County’s Expectant and Parenting Youth conference; directing the Department of Health and Human Services to issue guidance to child welfare agencies on how to train staff on the needs of PPY and their children; and passing the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act of 2021 which prioritizes eligibility for PPY in foster care for subsidized child care – Junely Merwin
- Address the adultification of Black girls in foster care by requiring HHS to collect and disaggregate adoption and foster care data by race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity; request the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine the treatment of Black girls in foster care; and create a federally-funded National Girls Initiative (NGI) for girls in foster care – Tashia Roberson-Wing
We applaud these young leaders for their advocacy paving the way toward a better future for young people who encounter the child welfare system.