Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Day

Floor Speech

By:  Karen Bass
Date: May 21, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. BASS. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

First and foremost, let me say that my heart goes out to all of those in Oklahoma who experienced a terrible tragedy yesterday, and I know I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that they get everything that they need to recover.

On another note, I rise today to celebrate the second annual Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Day. Today, we are joined in the Halls of the U.S. Capitol by over 50 foster youth and alumni from across the country. They've been paired with Members of Congress as job shadows to get a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the House of Representatives. The young leaders will attend hearings, join meetings, and participate in media interviews.

As we welcome these young leaders and recognize National Foster Care Month throughout the month of May, we are reminded that foster youth far too often experience traumatic incidences of abuse and neglect and are separated from their homes and siblings. Yet, even in the face of these challenges, the resiliency of foster youth remains strong.

The young foster youth here today are no different. They were selected to participate in Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Day based on their leadership and commitment to improving the lives of foster youth and families across the Nation.

Today, I'm honored to recognize and celebrate an incredible young woman with whom I have the privilege of sharing my morning. Marcelina Valenzuela is 24 years old and grew up in Los Angeles. She spent 7 years in the California foster care system. She entered foster care at birth due to drug addiction of her mother. She left foster care at age 4 only to return at age 15 because of ongoing neglect and abuse. Like far too many foster youth, she struggled with her education, sibling separation, and mental health because of the constant moving and upheaval while in foster care. Yet she was able to overcome these obstacles.

Now Marcelina actively works with organizations such as FosterClub, the National Foster Youth Action Network, and Foster Care Alumni of America to improve and reform the foster care system so that younger generations may not have to repeat the struggles and challenges that she faced.

Today, Marcelina has custody of her two younger sisters, ages 14 and 16. She's only 24. Her ultimate goal is to finish school and then build a career around improving the foster care system. In fact, she hopes to open up her own nonprofit that focuses on helping youth coming out of the juvenile justice system.

In honor of Marcelina's courage and tenacity, let us commit to doing what we can to ensure that 400,000-plus foster youth across the country have the opportunities, love, and families they deserve. As a first step, I invite my colleagues to join the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth and to cosponsor the bipartisan resolution in recognition of May as National Foster Care Month.