CCAI's Foster Youth Internship (FYI) Program is a highly esteemed Congressional Internship for young adults who spent time in the foster care system. The FYI program began in 2003 as an effort to raise awareness to federal policymakers about the needs and unique perspectives of those who spent time in foster care. As part of the program, CCAI organizes retreats, advocacy trainings, and various networking opportunities with experts in the child welfare field. Throughout the summer, the FYI interns spend time researching about policy issues affecting foster children across the country. These experiences allow the interns to create a policy report that is presented at a Congressional briefing and released to child welfare advocates across the country.
As a result of the program, federal policymakers are shown firsthand the experiences of youth in foster care, and as a result go on to use their new knowledge to inspire legislative change. Interns participating in this program benefit both personally and professionally, gaining experience and skills that will bolster their careers for years to come and with a foundation to be lifelong advocates for improving the foster care system.
The mission of CCAI's FYI Program is to engage Members of Congress in reforming the U.S. foster care system by linking them with a foster care alumni whose firsthand experience can serve as a road map for reform. As part of the program, CCAI facilitates the production of an annual policy related report, created by the FYI interns and released at a Congressional Briefing hosted by the FYI interns. This unique report represents the combination of a lifetime of experience with nine weeks of intense policy related research and is intended to be used as a resource for Members of Congress and advocates across the country working to address policy barriers. FYI interns are selected because they display both the interest and skill necessary to become an effective advocate for change. The program is uniquely designed to develop and strengthen these advocacy skills as well as provide opportunities to pursue a career in federal policy after graduation. FYI interns are given an inside look at the federal legislative process and an opportunity to play an active role in developing federal policy. FYI interns have found this experience to be invaluable to their efforts to secure jobs after college. The program provides for each intern to receive an adequate and equal stipend, housing, reimbursement of the cost to travel to Washington and daily commuting expenses.
To begin the program, CCAI organizes a structured orientation program meant to familiarize the interns with CCAI, Congress, and Capitol Hill and to educate them on expectations and etiquette when working for Members of Congress. A senior Congressional staff member from a participating Congressional office gives an overview of the following: conduct expected of the interns, proper etiquette while working on Capitol Hill, and pertinent legislative terms and procedures. Additional educational components include an orientation in the research tools provided to Members of Congress from the Congressional Research Service and other professional development seminars.
Following orientation, CCAI takes the interns on a retreat. During the retreat, meaningful dialogue between the interns takes place, along with time for relaxation, hiking, arts, music, and getting to know the CCAI staff and supporters of this program. Throughout the duration of the program, the CCAI staff is in constant communication with Congressional offices to make certain that the program is operating in a manner that enhances the experience for all involved.
Throughout the summer, events are scheduled to give the Foster Youth Interns exposure to Washington, DC professionals, as well as other Congressional offices and staff. At the Networking Luncheon, FYI interns have a chance to network with successful members of the community who represent a wide variety of policy and non-policy related disciplines. Participants included members of the White House staff, media, lobbying firms and individuals representing either the public or private sectors. The Members of Congress Luncheon allows key legislator to share their commitment to important issues that face youth in foster care and their vision for bringing about change in this area.
A newer and highly successful addition to the FYI Program is the Sara Start Fund. With involvement from business and community partners, the Sara Start Fund is designed to help former foster youth get a start on their professional lives by providing a stipend for a business wardrobe, media training and exposure, as well as informal career counseling.