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VFA Policy Intern Blog: A Summer with Voice for Adoption

A Summer with Voice for Adoption

By Isabel Marcelletti and Michael Tuskey

Published 8/10

For the last policy blog, Isabel Marcelletti and Michael Tuskey will be answering questions about their time interning at Voice for Adoption.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about interning for a non-profit?

Michael: I was surprised that such a small organization like VFA can have a real impact on foster care issues. There’s no one else except Schylar, Isabel, and me, meaning that we  knew all the work going on in the organization. Size doesn’t matter when you have an Executive Director who never seems to sleep and is always trying to get VFA message and advocacy out there. Being small also means VFA can react to the constantly changing political climate of Washington D.C. such as the recent healthcare debate. It’s hard to imagine a larger organization being able to adapt so quickly.

Isabel: I had no idea how crucial collaborators were to Voice for Adoption’s (VFA) impact on the Hill. Small nonprofits have to connect with other organizations that hold similar goals because they are strength in numbers. VFA is the leading advocate for our 112,000 waiting children in foster care because it has a strong organizational foundation and it effectively amplifies its voice through many partnerships. Having a network of similarly driven peers is very important in the ever-changing DC landscape. Essentially, I was pleasantly pleased to see that non-profits are so resilient and driven because they work together.

How should we keep spreading awareness of the struggles youth in foster care have to overcome?

Michael: I believe the best way to spread awareness is simply informing people about the statistics of foster youth. Before I started interning at VFA, I knew that youth in foster care faced difficult challenges successfully transiting out of care. It wasn't until I saw the actual statistics and heard the personal stories from former foster youth that I understood how much more we as a country have to do to help them. Our foster care system is not living up to the standards we as a country expect and there would be a much larger outcry for change if people just knew the facts.

Isabel: I think the best way to spread awareness for our foster youth is to improve the training of professionals who interact with these children on a daily basis. I want to see more compassionate personnel who can provide these youth with a support system. The people who work and interact with foster youth on a day-to-day basis should be a primary focus group for raising awareness. These individuals can be the difference between a foster youth striving for a positive future with a support system and a foster youth going down a path they can never come back from. We want national awareness for foster youth and adoption issues but we have to remember the people who will make a direct impact on these children’s lives.

What was the most rewarding part of working for Voice for Adoption?

Michael: Knowing that everything I did mattered. Not that everything i did was extremely important but that if I wasn’t working on it, Schylar would have to do it. When there’s only one person operating in D.C. any work I was given was work that Schylar would have to do if we weren’t there. So it didn’t matter how little the assignment seemed, because if me or Izzy weren’t there to do the work, then Schylar would have to take time to do it and he’s already an extremely busy Executive Director. He always let us know that our work was appreciated and that it did make a difference.

Isabel: The most rewarding part of working for VFA was the satisfaction that I learned how to put the pieces together: where foster youth’s voices, adoptive families’ stories, and members of Congress’ motivations fit together in an advocacy setting. I have developed an understanding why our work must be non-partisan to the extent where our concerns only lie with foster youth and adoptive families. The fact that I could witness members of Congress from all political spectrums come together to support foster youth and adoption issues through organizing our Adoptive Family Portrait Project, listening to members on the Hill, and watching the attendance at our briefing was very worthwhile. Being driven by a mission to be the voice for the 112,000 children waiting to be adopted spoke to me personally, as an adoptee, and having that singular purpose, all summer, was very special.