Congressional Internship for Foster Youth Forced to Go Remote

The coronavirus pandemic has affected seemingly everything, and the 20th annual congressional summer internship program for former foster youth is no exception.

For the first time in the history of the Foster Youth Internship Program, familiarly known as FYI, participants in the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s program will take place not in Washington, D.C., but virtually.

The coalition, which recently hired a new executive director, was founded in 2001 as a nonprofit supporter of the bipartisan and bicameral adoption caucus that has existed on Capitol Hill since 1985. 

A briefing by the Foster Youth Interns from 2016. Live internships and meetings this year have been changed to a remote platform for the program. Photo: CCAI.

Lawmakers say the Foster Youth Internship plays an important role in the institute’s work. The interns leverage their personal insight on the problems foster youth face and recommend informed policy and program changes when they brief members of Congress. Those proposals appear in a congressional report produced and circulated by the institute each year. 

“I go and hear the young people present their policy papers, but I also take a serious look at their policy,” said Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, in a 2017 article about the program. “I don’t doubt for one minute that many members of Congress have introduced legislation based on it.”

This year’s class of interns, which has already been selected, will work from home, but together online, to research solutions and formulate recommendations on strengthening the child welfare system during and after COVID-19. The disease has turned the lives of many current and foster youth upside down in myriad ways that it has not touched the lives of more privileged people.

Participants will present their recommendations to the child welfare community in a webinar on July 22. They will also receive a stipend this summer to help cover housing, grocery and other living expenses.

“The CCAI Board of Directors and staff have considered several alternative plans over the past few weeks and fully believe this program option is the safest and most meaningful opportunity for the 2020 class,” said Kate McLean, CCAI’s director of programs, in an email to The Chronicle of Social Change.

Chuck Carroll is a freelance journalist and editor working with The Chronicle.

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