The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s (CCAI) eleven interns presented an experience and research-informed policy recommendation report in a Congressional Briefing entitled Building the Path Forward for Change in the Child Welfare System. The Foster Youth Interns (FYIs) shared their recommendations on a wide range of important topics, including maintaining sibling connections, racial equity, services for indigenous youth, mental health, maltreatment reporting, higher education, SSI benefits, and support for parenting youth. CCAI’s briefing included supportive messages from Congressman Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Congresswoman Sharice Davids (D-KS), who emphasized the importance of the interns’ work.
Cortez Carey, an MSW graduate from Howard University, urged Congress to establish a housing fund that kinship and foster families could use to meet state housing requirements and prevent sibling separation. Cortez shared his experience of being separated from his siblings when he was removed from a healthy and safe kinship placement on the basis of insufficient housing space. Cortez emphasized the mental health benefits that come with continued sibling contact; benefits that he wished he and his siblings could have experienced.
Tashia Roberson-Wing, who is pursuing a MSW and MPA at The Ohio State University, recommended that Congress require DHHS to collect and disaggregate data through AFCARS by race/ethnicity, gender, and gender identity, and sexual orientation to better understand how intersectionality impacts youth involved in child welfare. Tashia spoke passionately against the “one-size fits all” solutions of child welfare and highlighted Ma’Khia Bryant’s death as a tragic example of the injustices Black girls face in the foster care system.
Junely Merwin, a graduate of California State University Fullerton, recommended that DHHS issue guidance to child welfare agencies on how to train staff on the needs of Pregnant and Parenting Youth (PPY), including trauma-informed care and parenting planning. Junely also urged Congress to pass the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act of 2021, prioritizing eligibility for PPY in foster care for subsidized child care. Junely entered foster care with her one-month-old son when she was fifteen years old and discussed the ways the child welfare system failed her and her son, as well as the community programs that uplifted them.
The class of 2021’s published federal policy report, Building the Path Forward for Change in the Child Welfare System report is available online here and a recording of the briefing is available on YouTube here. CWLA’s legislative agenda addresses many of the recommendations and challenges specifically that Cortez, Tashia, and Junely discuss as needing child welfare reform.