Johnston Foster Youth Joins Langevin on Capitol Hill

May 20, 2015 Issues: Children and Families, Foster Youth

Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, participated today in the fourth annual “Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Day.” Blanca Merced of Johnston spent the day with Langevin, joining more than 60 other foster youth alumni from across the country that traveled to Capitol Hill to shadow members of Congress and share their experiences in the child welfare system.

“I am thrilled to have Blanca in my office today. She went through a traumatic experience that no child should have to face, and yet she emerged strong and eager to advocate on behalf of other foster youth. Her story is one of resilience and is representative of the challenges faced by the nearly 400,000 children in foster care today,” said Langevin. “Blanca is a living reminder of why I am engaged in the fight for better foster care, and I hope Foster Youth Shadow Day will inspire my colleagues in Congress to join me in the push for permanency for all children.”

When Merced was just six weeks old, she was removed from her mother’s care and placed with her grandmother. At 15 years old, authorities then removed her from her grandmother’s custody, citing an unsafe home environment. From there, Merced was in and out of multiple foster home placements until she aged out of the system at the age of 18.

"I became involved with the Foster Shadow Day because I want to be a pioneer for change in the foster care system in Rhode Island,” said Merced. “I wanted to know what I could do as an alumna of foster care to help current foster youth get through the system. I also wanted to be the voice for the youth I work with to let Congress know ‘We exist!’ Things aren’t perfect and they probably won’t be perfect but there are steps we can take to make foster care easier for youth, not just in Rhode Island, but across the entire nation.”

Merced met Langevin in his office to discuss foster care and what can be done to improve the system. She also met with members of Langevin’s staff and learned more about the Congressman’s responsibilities in Washington. Later in the day, Merced accompanied Langevin to a meeting of the House Committee on Homeland Security and around the halls of Congress. Merced’s Foster Youth Shadow Day experience wrapped up with a Champions of Change event at the White House.

When Langevin was growing up, his parents served as foster parents to several youth, giving him a unique perspective on the difference a loving home can make in the life of a child. In Congress, he has worked to address many of the obstacles faced by foster youth, including the high incidence of identity theft. Langevin authored legislation, which became law in 2011, that mandated free credit checks for foster youth before they age out of the system, and assistance in clearing any inaccuracies from their records. Last month, he introduced the Protecting Adopted Children Act, which aims to curb the practice of adopted children being privately “re-homed” into the custody of strangers without oversight.

“Prioritizing permanency for foster youth saves money and, more importantly, benefits the child, giving them a sense of stability that empowers them to set roots, forge meaningful relationships and chart a course for personal success,” Langevin continued. “All children deserve a safe, loving home and the opportunity to succeed. We can – and must – do more to ensure that is possible.”

Follow updates from Foster Youth Shadow Day on Twitter with the hashtags #DCShadowDay and #FosterYouthVoices.