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Matthew's D.C. Experience

Hello all, my name is Matthew Jacobs, and I have been one of the Policy Associate Interns with Voice for Adoption this past semester. I am in my junior year at Michigan State University studying Political Science, and plan on applying to the Social Work program this semester. I chose to intern with Voice for Adoption because of my passion for helping people, specifically those who are disenfranchised and have a harder life on no part of their own. I also was drawn to work for VFA because of the experience I was going to gain. VFA, as you may or may not know, is a smaller nonprofit, so we work on everything from resources and education, to lobbying, to fundraising, and more. I have always been very interested in eventually working or opening my own nonprofit, so this experience was going to provide me with my first, first-hand experience with a nonprofit organization.

If you were going to tell me that when I began college 3 years ago I was going to spend a semester in Washington D.C., I would have been in a bit of disbelief. Then, if you were to tell me that the semester was going to end early because of a global pandemic, I would not have believed you; but here we are.

My semester in Washington, D.C. has been one to remember, and one that will impact the rest of my educational experience and my outlook on careers. From day one of the internship I started making connections and building relationships with folks in the office. Everyone was extremely friendly and always willing to help you out or lead you in a direction that could help. I met some amazing people during my time there who I am so glad to call my friends now. The beginning of the internship was a little rough to start, however, by week three Evin and I were getting a hang of it. I did not have any experience with child welfare, adoption, or foster care, prior to beginning at VFA. Now as I continue my social justice work, I have a much better understanding of the complexities of the system and the issues they face. One of the coolest aspects of my experience there was attending meetings on Capitol Hill and lobbying. All of the meetings on the Hill were to lobby for the Every Child Deserves a Family Act. This bill prohibits discrimination of any kind for both the children and parents affiliated with the child welfare system. We spent many days on the Hill, several of which Evin and I attended without Schylar. One of the coolest meetings was the one we attended with a staff member from Speaker Pelosi’s office in the Capitol building.

Living in D.C. was such an amazing experience. Easily, I can say I would like to move back there after graduating. D.C. is full of activism, activities, museums, socially engaged citizens, and a gorgeous landscape. One of my favorite activities to do while there was to go to the museums and monuments, and then get some food from a food truck. There was always something to do and somewhere to go. 

Let me just say, COVID-19 sucks. It has impacted everyone in this country drastically. It has halted work, travel, socializing, and many other aspects of medial day life. While it is definitely inconvenient and contributing to stress and chaos on a large scale, we have to think of the communities that are being impacted greatly by this pandemic. Specifically, children, families, and workers in the child welfare system. For the children, regardless of their placement status are trying to cope with the pandemic with minimal to no emotional, mental support because of lack of permanency. For our child welfare workers - social workers, community health workers, CPS workers, etc. - are still trying to cope and manage with how to handle this new way of living for the time being. In some circumstances, case workers are being permitted to conduct check-ins via facetime or video call, however, that reduces the ability for the worker to fully evaluate the safety of the child(ren). Foster Alumni are one of the groups being impacted the most. Before the pandemic, this group had higher percentages of unemployment and homeslessness already. Now, foster alumni are having to deal with finding places to live if their colleges are closed, contingency plans for shelter, making money, and obtaining food. 

After this experience with Voice for Adoption, I will never be able to look at and understand adoption the same way. As I’ve learned over the semester, so many issues in the child welfare community get left or pushed under the rug. This work is hard, but doing it for the near 500,000 children who are in the system makes it worth it.