The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Foster Youth School Congress
Represent staff

On May 24, former Represent writer Quotesia Johnson went to Washington, D.C., with 119 other foster youth alums. It was the sixth annual Foster Youth Shadow Day, a program run by the National Foster Youth Institute. Over five days, participants get training in advocacy and community organizing, then spend a day “shadowing” (following around) a member of Congress. Hosted by the Congressional Caucus on Foster Care, Shadow Day is a two-way street, where the youth learn what a legislator does but also share their experiences. That way, the legislators can make laws that reflect the reality of foster youths’ lives.

Quotesia was assigned U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks, who represents New York’s 5th District (made of parts of Queens and Long Island). When she walked into his office, Quotesia reports, Rep. Meeks was reading her 2010 Represent story “A Roof of One’s Own” ( The two of them talked about the over-prescribing of medication to foster youth, she says, “and how our voices were disregarded and muted.”

The National Foster Youth Institute reports that five bills were introduced and passed in the House of Representatives after Shadow Day. (Bills must also be voted in by the Senate and signed by the president to become law.) Here is their summary of the bills:

HR 2847 Improving Services for Older Youth In Foster Care Act

This bill will let states provide former foster youth with Education and Training Vouchers (ETVs) through age 25 (it was 23).

HR 2742 Modernizing the Interstate Placement of Children in Foster Care Act

This bill will provide money for states to modernize their case management systems—for example, some states might still use paper instead of computers, and this is one reason why paperwork gets lost. This bill will also make it easier for social workers and child welfare departments to work across state lines when children or families move from one state to another.

image by National Foster Youth Institute

HR 2834 Partnership Grants to Strengthen Families Affected by Parental Substance Abuse Act

This bill helps children who might go into foster care because their parents are addicted to drugs. Money from this bill will pay for family drug treatment courts and family-centered drug treatment programs. Instead of just punishing the parent who is an addict, this will help them get treatment and help keep families together whenever possible.

HR 2866 Reducing Barriers for Relative Foster Parents Act

This bill makes it easier for relatives to qualify as foster parents. Before, if your house wasn’t large enough, you couldn’t keep your grandchildren or other relative children and they would have to go into foster care. This bill will create more flexibility so relatives can care for family members without so many barriers.

HR 2857 Supporting Families in Substance Abuse Treatment Act

This bill allows for child welfare money to be used to pay for children who are living with their parents in residential drug treatment programs, so families can live together while a parent goes through drug treatment rather than put the child(ren) in foster care.

Advocacy takes many forms, including writing, but Shadow Day is unusually direct—foster youth tell their stories and legislators use that information to make better laws that same year. Thank you to Quotesia and the other youth for making a difference.

Learn more about the National Foster Youth Institute at

If you are in New York and would like to participate in a similar program to share your experiences with state legislators in Albany, go to

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