She might be a senior at Illinois State University, but Alison Myers has already accomplished something that most Americans will never achieve. On July 17, 2018, Myers presented her research before Congress.
Myers, a social work major graduating in 2019, was one of 10 foster youth alumni from around the country selected to be a summer 2018 Foster Youth Intern through the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI).
As part of the internship, she spent the majority of her time as a legislative intern in Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin’s office. When she wasn’t working at Durbin’s office, Myers was at CCAI’s office, where she researched and created her policy report.
Myers presented her policy report, “Transforming Extended Foster Care: More Meaningful Preparation for a Brighter Future,” in an open briefing before Congress on July 17. The briefing was so well attended that the room overflowed and additional attendees were not allowed to enter. Additionally, Myers also presented during a closed briefing to staff at the White House.
Myers’s policy report focused on transitional aged foster youth, and more specifically, both the expansion of requirements for extended care and an increase in the age limit for those benefits. Her own experiences in the foster care system, as well as those of her sister, led Myers to research this topic.
“My own transition plan was developed just 90 days prior to my 18th birthday,” Myers stated in her report. “The short time for preparation caused me to feel too rushed, which led me to ignore important areas of my development that needed attention during this time of my life. Instead of focusing on my current and future overall well-being, I spent this planning period focused on ensuring that I could meet the requirements to stay in care and hold onto the benefits I had, all while struggling on and off with depression and anxiety.”
Through her research, Myers proposed that Congress should require all states to offer extended foster care until the age of 21, and up to the age of 23. She also proposed that Congress replace the existing transition plan and the requirements to receive extended care services with a new Individualized Advancement Plan customized for each youth.
“My hope was to show that the one-size-fits-all model of the aging-out process does not do a sufficient job in maximizing one’s future,” Myers said of the congressional briefing.
“In today’s world, it is not normal for a young adult to be out on their own at the age of 18 with no support, no money, nothing. This is a reality for some foster youth all over the U.S. Due to trauma, a foster youth is sometimes already behind in development, so ensuring a few more years of support after the age of 18 in this important transition from foster care to independence is deserving.”
Myers’s full policy report is available online within the larger, co-published document that includes reports from the other nine interns. Her report begins on Page 34 of “Tools for Transformation: Building a Compassionate Child Welfare System.” The congressional briefing is also available to view online on YouTube. Myers’s presentation begins at 40:25.