When Marcia Hopkins spoke in front of Congress, everyone was listening.
“Sometimes we don’t think that we get heard, but the work we did this summer did not [go] unnoticed,” said Hopkins, who was raised in the Philadelphia foster care system as a child.
Hopkins spent eight years in foster care, and she went on to graduate with a master’s in social work from Temple last spring. This summer, she was one of 12 people chosen to be a Foster Youth Intern for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute in Washington, D.C.
According to a press release by CCAI, “this assignment provides young adults who have been in the United States foster care system with an opportunity to intern in a congressional office and research issues affecting children in foster care across the country.”
“I think that CCAI does a wonderful thing by essentially forcing those in power to hear from young adults about how foster care legislation has impacted our lives,” Hopkins said. “I felt honored that so many people came to hear us speak and really cared about our experiences and our issues.”
After spending 10 weeks interning for Sen. Bob Casey and researching the foster care system, Hopkins presented a policy report to the members of Congress and child welfare advocates during a congressional briefing on July 28.
“It was truly an awesome experience to see how all the ‘magic’ happens in Congress,” Hopkins said.
The topic of Hopkins’ policy report was foster youth aging out of care and experiencing homelessness.
“Every year over 23,000 youth are emancipated from care without the necessary support to sustain themselves … and I find this very disheartening,” Hopkins said. “Many of them experience homelessness as a result, which I believe no child … should ever have to experience. I believe we truly do foster youth a disservice by not preparing and supporting them for life after care.”
She said speaking in front of Congress was “surreal.”
While Hopkins was working toward her master’s degree at Temple, her brother, foster parent and grandmother passed away, which made achieving her degree especially challenging.
“My time studying at Temple was rigorous, but wonderful,” Hopkins said. “I found great support from my friends and great professors who really helped me to stay focused and keep my eye on the prize, my degree.”
Since receiving her master’s degree, Hopkins also interned for the Juvenile Law Center, an organization focused on creating opportunity for children in foster care and the juvenile justice system. Hopkins said she’s considering law school or pursuing her MBA, but first wants to continue working in the field and helping youth in foster care directly.
“My experience at the congressional briefing was humbling and had me in awe,” Hopkins said. “While nothing happens overnight, it gave me the boost I needed to really feel like I’m making a difference for other youth like us, those in care.”
Michaela Winberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215.204.7416.