On Capitol Hill today, Members of Congress from both Houses and political parties participated in a briefing about the U.S. foster care system, and honored the accomplishments of 15 former foster youth who have spent the summer as Congressional interns.
The briefing, hosted by the nonpartisan, non-profit Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) and titled "Finding Our Place: The Importance of Permanency" featured Members of Congress and former fosteryouth and emphasized the need for permanent, loving families for our nation's 500,000 foster children.
"The stories shared by the young people today illustrate the challenges facing many of our nation's foster children and youth. They are oftenseparated from their siblings and families, moved from foster home to foster home, school to school, and community to community," stated Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), Co-Chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption andPresident of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. "We must do all that we can to ensure that foster youth can leave the system to live permanently with loving families."
In the United States today, there are more than 517,000 children in foster care. They will spend an average of two and a half years in the foster care system, and 42% of these vulnerable children will move three or more times during this period. Some will spend far longer in foster care,and move as many as a dozen times. Children waiting to be adopted spend nearly twice as long in foster care (48 months) and 19% of our nation's foster youth live in group homes or institutional settings rather than with foster families. And, each year, 24,000 young people "age out" of the nation's foster care system without a permanent family to rely on.
The 15 former foster youth honored today are participants in the annual CCAI Foster Youth Internship Program (FYI). Each year, the FYI program provides former foster youth with the opportunity to intern for a Member of Congress.
This year's interns include: Agnes Barrios from Los Angeles, CA, who is interning for Representative Jim Langevin (D-2nd RI); Yolanda Burris from the Bronx, NY, who is interning for Representative Ginny Brown-Waite(R- 5th FL); Mophat Chongo from St. Jo, TX, who is interning for Representative Vito Fossella (R-13th NY); Laurissa Fike of Forestville, MD,who is interning for Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY); Kevinee Gilmore of Cleveland, OH, who is interning for Senator John Kerry (D-MA); JJ Hitch of Dryden, MI, who is interning for Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI); Ryan Kling of Hainesport, NJ, who is interning for Representative Jim Saxton (R-3rd NJ); Ashley McCullough of Berkeley, CA, who is interning for Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC); Christina Miranda of Allentown, PA, who is interning forRepresentative Tim Holden (D- 17th PA); Jamaal Nutall of Joliet, IL, who is interning for Representative Jerry Weller (R-11th IL); Nancy O'Reilly of Modesto, CA, who is interning for Representative George Radonovich (R-19thCA); Aisha Radford of Tallahassee, FL, who is interning for Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA); Jennifer Denise Smith of Lloyd Harbor, NY, who is interning for Representative Phil English (R-3rd PA); Marjory Turner of Toledo, OH, who is interning for Representative Keith Ellison (D-5th MN), and Julia Villamizar of Miami, FL, who is interning for Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-18th FL).
The briefing recognized the individual achievements of these outstanding young adults who have become successful college students determined to improve the foster care system. The briefing also underscored the critical importance of permanency and supporting our children and youth to help them thrive and flourish. Every child deserves a safe, permanentfamily where they will be loved and supported. The briefing comes one day after the latest in a series of Congressional hearings, convened by theU.S. House Ways and Means Committee's Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, on the nation's foster care system and its impact on the children and youth in its care. This most recent hearing focused on the challenges facing youth who "age out" of foster care without a permanent family to rely on, and featured the testimony of several young adults who aged out of care. Among them was Jamaal Nutall, a 2007 CCAI FYI intern who aged out of Illinois' foster care system.
The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising awareness about the tens ofthousands of foster children in this country and the millions of orphans around the world in need of permanent, safe, and loving homes throughadoption; and to eliminating the barriers that hinder these children from realizing their basic right of a family. CCAI was created in 2001 by the active co-chairs of the bicameral, bipartisan Congressional Coalition on Adoption (CCA) to more effectively raise Congressional and public awareness about the issue of adoption. Senator Larry Craig, Senator Mary Landrieu, Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite, and Congressman Jim Oberstar currently serve as both Congressional directors of CCAI and the co-chairs of the CCA.
The CCAI Foster Youth Internship Program is made possible through the generous support of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the C4 Group. The "Finding Our Place: The Importanceof Permanency" briefing is made possible through the generous support of The Pew Charitable Trusts.