Kerry praises interns who grew up in foster care, Highlights need for foster children to have permanent families
Senator John Kerry yesterday participated in a briefing about the U.S. foster care system, and honored the accomplishments of 15 former foster youth, including Kevinee Gilmore, an intern that has been working in his office this summer.
Kevinee entered foster care at age 13 and remained in the system for five years. During that time, she moved twelve times, attended four high schools, and missed opportunities to "participate in activities, build healthy relationships and experience life as a teen." She was separated from her parents and siblings, school friends and relatives.
Now a senior in college, Kevinee's experiences have motivated her to "want to bring about positive change" in the U.S. foster care system. Specifically, she sees a need for increased supports and services for young people who age out of foster care without a permanent family to rely on. After she aged out of foster care, Kevinee experienced homelessness, lacked health insurance, and experienced difficulty in college.
"Foster youth in Massachusetts and across the nation confront the challenges and uncertainties that Kevinee and her peers described today. These young people need our help," said Senator Kerry. "We must do everything we can to provide safety, security and the stability of a permanent family, and I commend CCAI for helping to bring attention to this issue.
The briefing, sponsored by the nonpartisan, non-profit Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) and titled "Finding Our Place: The Importance of Permanency", featured Members of Congress and former foster youth and emphasized the need for permanent, loving families for our nation's 500,000 foster children.
In Massachusetts, there are more than 12,500 children currently in foster care. On average, these children spend nearly two and a half years in foster care, and half will move more than three times during this period. More than half are between the ages of 13 and 21, and while many of these youth will leave foster care for the safety of a permanent family, in 2004 12% "aged out" with no family to rely on. Without the support of a family, many young people who age out of care experience homelessness, incarceration, unemployment or suffer from physical or mental illness.
Kevinee Gilmore and 14 other former foster youth honored today are participants in the annual Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute Foster Youth Internship Program (FYI). Each year, the FYI program provides former foster youth with the opportunity to intern for a Member of Congress.
The briefing recognized the individual achievements of these outstanding young people who have become successful college students determined to improve the foster care system. The briefing also underscored the critical importance of permanency and supporting our children and youth to help them thrive and flourish. The briefing comes one day after the latest in a series of Congressional hearings, convened by the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee's Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, on the nation's foster care system and its impact on the children and youth in its care.