Foster Youth to Attend Inauguration, Discuss Reforms to the Nation’s Foster Care System With Members of Congress

Jan 20, 2013

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.), co-founder and Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, announced she has invited three former foster youth to attend President Obama’s upcoming Inauguration, where they will also participate in meetings with lawmakers to raise awareness around the need for change within the nation’s foster care system.

The former foster youth will be visiting Washington one week after President Obama signed into law the first major legislative victory of the Congressional Caucus on FosterYouth, the Uninterrupted Scholars Act, which grants child welfare agencies access to school records of foster youth within their care.  Previously, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) made it difficult for child welfare agencies to obtain education records in a timely fashion, causing many foster youth to have to complete the same coursework multiple times and graduate late.  This resulted in too many foster youth choosing to drop out of school.  The legislation was a result of bicameral bipartisan cooperation with the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth.   

“I’m pleased that these three outstanding individuals have accepted our invitation to attend the Inauguration and seize this opportunity at the very beginning of this new Congress to raise awareness around the need for transformative change within our nation’s foster care system.  They are a testament to the perseverance of so many children in the system, who when given proper support can overcome tremendous odds,” said Rep. Bass.  I can’t think of better advocates to make the case for reform and am honored to accompany them as they meet with key leaders here in Washington.”

Bios for the three youth can be found below:

Elbert Belcher, age 21
21 years in Kentucky’s foster care system
Elbert was born into Kentucky’s foster care system where he spent 21 years in state care. He grew up with the polished truth that his mother was a severe alcoholic and unable to take care of him or his siblings. Throughout his childhood of being moved from different homes throughout the state, he was fortunate to remain with all his siblings. At the age of 12, he was adopted and after four years of an unfortunate and abusive adoption he was placed back into care. Entering Neccos Independent living program at 19, Elbert received his G.E.D and began taking college courses at Bluegrass Community and Technical College. Elbert plans on continuing his education and majoring in social work. Elbert now serves on both Kentucky Youth Leadership Council and Kentucky Foster Care Council, as an advocate and voice for foster youth. Elbert is a marathon runner, writer and....Foster Kid

Sixto Cancel, age 20
20 Years in Connecticut's foster care system
Sixto first entered foster care when he was 11 months old, and moved through severalfoster homes for the past 20 years in care with his ten brothers and sisters. He currently lives in Richmond, Va., where he is a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University. Sixto chaired the Southwestern Connecticut “A Voice to be Heard” Youth Leadership Board. He has designed, secured funding for, and implemented a pilot program called Stellar Works – a program to prepare children in foster care for post-secondary education. Sixto has also served as a Jim Casey Young Fellow, where he contributed his own perspective to the national and state-level conversation about youth transitioning out of the foster care system.  Sixto is on the advisory board for the American Institutes Research on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, and Allied youth.

Daniesha Tobey-Richards, age 19
5 years in Massachusetts' foster care system
Daniesha was born in Falmouth, Mass. She was placed into foster care at the age 1, and her mother was granted reunification when Daniesha was seven. Her family moved to a large city where Daniesha lived for the next seven years until she and her siblings were, once again, placed in the care of the state. When Daniesha was entering 10th grade, she and her younger sister were placed in the same foster home in a large farming town. From there, Daniesha got involved in sports, theatre, and art. She found numerous supportive adults in her high school. One teacher, specifically, mentored her and made her a part of his family. Currently, Daniesha is entering her 2nd year at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and is majoring in psychology. She hopes to become a licensed psychologist.