“We are the guardians of our nation’s youth”

That was Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado’s message during a powerful floor speech this week:

“That someone would hurt a child simply perplexes me. Children are the most vulnerable, most innocent in our society. …They don’t deserve to have their trust in adults, their trust in the world, shattered at such a young age, and they don’t deserve the ghosts of suffering that accompany abuse victims for the rest of their lives.”

“…These bills send a broader message, that everyone in this nation should join the fight against child exploitation. …we are all the guardians of our nation’s youth. We are all responsible for their childhood. We are all proponents of their future. These are our children, our pride, and joy. We must offer them the same vigilance and protection we offer our own children.”

Rep. Buck was referring to several bills we passed this week to combat human trafficking and child abuse.

It’s not a happy discussion, but it’s one that needs to happen — these bills will make a major difference in protecting people from exploitation and abuse. And the timing couldn’t have been more poignant. You see, May is Foster Care Month, and this week several foster care alumni were on Capitol Hill to share their stories with their representatives and advocate for our nation’s “forgotten youth.” Many foster youth fall prey to trafficking and abuse, and their visit was a reminder that they go through life experiences that would test the resolve of even the toughest adults.

House Republicans believe that every kid should have a chance to be a kid — and deserves to have a forever family. We’re committed to a future where children of all walks of life have love and support and feel safe.

Here’s what House Republicans had to say about their visit with foster care alumni:

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth:

“In nearly every big problem we try to address in Congress, we meet with and listen to the constituencies most affected by the problem we hope to fix. But when it comes to children, especially children stuck in the child welfare system, those voices go unheard. We can never fix anything if we don’t truly understand where it is broken. Today, those voices are being heard by Members of Congress who participated in Foster Youth Shadow Day. I was honored to spend time with one of my own constituents, Ryan Gibson, who lives in my hometown of Peoria and spent almost his whole childhood in the child welfare system. His experience speaks to the challenges that so many youth in foster care continue to face, and I am deeply grateful for the chance to get to hear the personal stories that help shape and inform our child welfare policy.”

Budget Committee Chair Diane Black (R-TN), Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth:

“Nothing is more important to a child’s upbringing and long term success than a loving, stable home. Sadly, too many children and young adults in Tennessee and across the country are lacking this basic human need. We may not all be called to adopt, but we are all called to do something. By participating in DC Shadow Day, and recognizing May as National Foster Care Month, we can shed light on the challenges faced by those in foster care and, hopefully, inspire bipartisan efforts to build a system better suited to match foster children with forever families.”

Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) on the House floor:

“I’m a proud member of the Foster Youth Caucus, and part of a family that was involved in the foster care system. Today I have the opportunity to spend time with Brittany as part of the National Foster Youth Institute Shadow Day. …She entered the system when she was seven. She said being able to work with children who had a similar experience to hers is life changing. She and her husband also provide a loving home to their two foster daughters. I’m grateful that I can spend time today with Brittany and hear about her positive experience with foster care. Her adopted family built a strong foundation for her to achieve success in her own life. Mr. Speaker, this is what foster care is all about. I thank Brittany for being here today, sharing her story and helping so many children overcome similar obstacles. …We’re all very proud of your success.”

House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) with Cristian:

“Cristian is only 21, but he’s already lived a remarkable life with an incredible sense of service before self. He’s become a caring, mature, and humble adult in spite of his challenging upbringing and has dedicated his life to advocating for his sisters, his nieces, and other foster youth. He feels so strongly about this that he wants to be a foster parent himself one day. I’m thankful I had the opportunity to meet him. Foster Youth Shadow Day is an incredible opportunity, and we’re all better for having heard their stories.”

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK):

“Each time I participate in foster youth shadow day, my eyes are opened further to the difficulties foster kids face during their most transformational years. This year, I had the privilege of spending part of my day with a young man from Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Theron had to grow up quickly, long before he aged out of foster care at 18. It’s important that we continue to recognize the growing need for foster families and lend our support to advocates seeking solutions for the more than 400,000 fostered youth across the country.”  

Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ):

“Today, I hosted a Jilyssa Stevens, a foster youth from Hamburg, New Jersey. Jilyssa is a strong and resilient young woman who has confronted many hardships in her life, yet she still wants to make a difference and help others. With more than 420,000 youth currently in our nation’s foster care system it is critical that we take time this month to raise awareness about the unique challenges facing young people in the system.”

House Veterans Affairs Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN):

“It was quite an honor to share Foster Youth Shadow Day today with Timothy, from Knoxville, TN. I am passionate about giving these individuals the opportunity to connect and learn about Congress, and more importantly, the ways in which we can remind them that their past does not define their future. Every year, I get as much out of interacting with these individuals as they do. As we mark Foster Youth Shadow Day, I am especially thankful the House reinforced its commitment to protecting those most vulnerable and innocent in our society this week by passing bipartisan bills that safeguard our children and punish those who abuse or target them for exploitation.”

Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO):

“It was a great opportunity to be able to visit with Hunter and learn about his experience in the foster care system. Too many kids age out of the system without the support and direction that many of us take for granted. I was impressed by all that Hunter has accomplished in the past few years.”

Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA):

“It was my pleasure to spend part of my morning with Tasha Jenkins in recognition of Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Day. Tasha, who just earned her degree in Theatre Integrated Arts from Bloomsburg University, spent much of her life in foster care and has an unbelievably moving and powerful personal story to tell. Thank you, Tasha, for all that you are doing on behalf of #FosterYouthVoices to protect vulnerable youth in America.”

Rep. David Valadao (R-CA):

“It was a pleasure to welcome Ms. Barrera to Washington, D.C. as a part of the Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Day. I was inspired by both her strength and positive attitude and am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to hear her story firsthand.”

We were happy to have them. Apparently the feeling was mutual 😉