March 15, 2021
CONTACT: Mariah Craven | [email protected] | 404-975-7084

Congressmember Deb Haaland Meets with Native American Foster Youth to Discuss Impact of Coronavirus Pandemic and Other Issues

Washington, DC — Incoming Secretary of the Interior and U.S. Representative Deb Haaland (NM-01) last week met with Native American foster youth and transition age youth (TAY) to hear directly from young people how the coronavirus pandemic and other issues are uniquely impacting them.

Hosted by the National Foster Youth Institute (NFYI), the virtual gathering put foster youth voices front and center. Participants shared with the Congresswoman their concerns and challenges around support during the pandemic, how foster care and adoption placements can lead to the loss of identity and culture, the difficulty of obtaining documents required by employers, and the disconnect between federal, state and tribal child welfare systems.

Rep. Haaland encouraged the young advocates to continue to speak out.

“Folks [in Congress] need to know these issues actually affect real people in their lives. When you have folks that care about issues like this enacting legislation and policies that strengthen the Indian Child Welfare Act and take real life experiences like yours into account during the time we’re moving issues like this forward, it’s essential,” Haaland said. “You’re never too young to contact your member of Congress or reach out and advocate for yourself and your friends. It’s so important that your voice is heard.”

“We’re grateful for Rep. Haaland’s ongoing commitment to listening to the children and young adults that have first-hand experience in the child welfare system,” said Rebecca Louve Yao, executive director of NFYI. “If our country is serious about improving the child welfare system and making sure that every child has the best possible start in life, that can only happen if we give current and former foster youth a seat at the table alongside decision and policymakers.”

NFYI worked with NICWA, the Native American Youth and Family Center, the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute, and Foster Club to develop this event and support the youth participants in their advocacy efforts.