On Thursday, January 17, 2019, the chairs of Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth held a welcome back event with the staff on Capitol Hill and advocates to discuss issues affecting youth in the child welfare system. The National Foster Youth Institute (NFYI) shared the success of 2018 work and efforts planned for 2019 with the attendees.

The Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth provides a forum for Members of Congress to discuss and develop policy recommendations to strengthen the child welfare system and improve the overall well-being of youth and families. The bipartisan co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth include Rep. Karen Bass Karen Bass (D-CA), Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), and Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI).

Congresswoman Bass stated that this year’s focus for the Caucus is to transform the nation’s child welfare system through community organizing. She also mentioned that the Caucus has the commitment from the Chairs of the Education & Labor and Ways and Means Committee on supporting legislation proposed by the bipartisan group. Some priority items the Caucus will focus on are sibling connections, reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), support for kinship navigators, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), issues involving “rehoming of adoptive youth,” and higher education support for older youth to name a few.

Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) also made remarks as one of the co-chairs of the group. He discussed his long running concerns about child welfare issues including the need for post-adoption services.

The caucus will continue their past listening sessions which bring different members of Congress together to hold community visits to learn about the challenges in child welfare. The annual national “Shadow Day” will take place the first week of June.

The National Foster Youth Institute (NFYI) is encouraging members of Congress to sign up for the Shadow Day Program. Shadow Day is an opportunity for youth in foster care and alumni (18-30 years of age) to shadow a member of Congress on Capitol Hill for a day. For more information, members can contact NFYI at info@nfyi.org.

Another leadership development provided by NFYI is the Leadership Corp Chapters that includes young people ages 18 to 30 who engages in the decision–making and reform at the local and state level. For more information on NFYI, please visit the website at www.nfyi.org.

Much of the rest of the event was a discussion of last year’s accomplishments and what to focus on in the upcoming term. On the list of accomplishments was a fix last year to the ACA provision that allows any young person aging out of foster care to continue to have Medicaid coverage to the age of 26. Also listed was the passage of the Family First Act.

Topics for future discussion included a discussion of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a discussion of the history of child welfare, immigration and its impact on child welfare and child welfare’s impact on immigration, children with disabilities as part of the foster care population and some audience members suggesting a closer examination of the LGBTQ population in foster care.

After the event there was a surprise announcement by one of the prominent co-sponsors, Congressman Tom Marino (R-PA) that he would be leaving Congress as of January 23. The Congressman had just been re-elected but approximately a year ago he withdrew his nomination to become Mr. Trump’s “drug czar” after a controversy flared over some legislation regulating oversight of the pharmaceutical industry.