WASHINGTON, DC — The National Foster Youth Institute (NFYI) is recruiting 100 young adults with lived experience in the child welfare system to attend a Virtual Congressional Convening in July as part of an ongoing effort to put foster youth voices at the forefront of transforming foster care across the nation.

At the four day virtual conference, current and former foster youth from around the country will discuss issues that impact children in care and young adults who are transitioning out of care — a challenging process that often pushes vulnerable or unsupported youth into homelessness and un/underemployment. Participants will also speak directly with Members of Congress and share their first-hand experience in foster care in their communities, talking about what works, what doesn’t, and how federal legislation can improve the lives of children nationwide.

“Child welfare is one of those very special issue areas that most Members of Congress agree on, regardless of their party affiliation or the area of the country they represent,” said Rebecca Louve Yao, executive director of NFYI. “Everyone understands that when you provide safe, stable lives for children, it’s an investment in stronger families, safe and supportive communities, and a more robust local economy.”

The Virtual Congressional Convening will be held online from July 23-26. In addition to current/former foster youth and Members of Congress, participants will also engage with policymakers and issue experts. Topics explored will include juvenile justice, the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, and developing a national standard of care that will ensure that every child in foster care is treated with dignity and gets access to the resources they need, regardless of where they live.

Current and former foster youth between 18 and 30 are invited to apply to join the program here. And Members of Congress and staffers are invited to sign up to participate by reaching out to [email protected].

The National Foster Youth Institute works to transform the child welfare system by ensuring that current and former foster youth and their families have a seat at the table with legislators, decision makers, and policymakers. To that end, each year, NFYI takes more than 100 current/former foster youth to Washington, DC to participate in the Congressional Shadow Program Experience, which is developed in partnership with the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. In 2020, the Congressional Shadow Day was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, NFYI has continued to put foster youth in touch with Members of Congress through a series of virtual town halls and convenings.

These in-person and virtual experiences have led to legislation that increases funding for youth transitioning out of foster care, for support for foster youth impacted by the pandemic, for extended healthcare, for decreasing barriers to higher education, and more.