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ECU business management major Destiny Reid presents educational materials related to adoption to members of Congress, as part of her 10-week internship through the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI). (Photos by Kami Swingle with CCAI)
MAKING AN IMPACT
ECU student speaks to Congress after overcoming hardships
Aug. 10, 2015
By Kelly Setzer
ECU News Services
While many college students spent their summer sleeping late or soaking up the sun, East Carolina University junior Destiny Reid was preparing a presentation to Congress.
Reid was one of 12 students selected nationally for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s (CCAI) Foster Youth Internship Program. The opportunity, offered only to young adults who have been in the United States foster care system, allows participants to intern in a Congressional office for 10 weeks.
She was tasked with extensive research on issues affecting children in foster care across the country, a deeply personal topic for her. Reid, a Graham, North Carolina native, entered the foster care system at the age of two and spent most of her childhood in foster homes.
“I never actually had a bad experience with the foster care system,” Reid said. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me. It was when we were adopted that we had a bad experience.”
Along with her two brothers, Reid was officially adopted into a family when she was nine years old. She said it only took a few months to realize it was a toxic environment.
One of the 12 children in the adoptive home soon reported sexual and physical abuse to school counselors.
Reid was removed from the home and returned to foster care immediately.
ECU student Destiny Reid and other panel members are shown above in a video of their presentation to Congress members. Reid's presentation can be seen at 59:37.
Reid’s presentation during the July 28 briefing focused on educating members of Congress about “adoption disruption” versus “adoption dissolution.”
The difference in these terms is important, Reid said, because the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014 included national data on dissolved adoptions only. She recommended an amendment to Congress, so that a list of additional data points may be considered when enforcing the act. According to Reid, more complete information would improve the federal law, preventing further trauma to children in foster care and increasing the number of successful adoptions.
“I believe that no child should have to experience the promise of a ‘forever home’ and then have that taken away from them,” Reid said. “We need to find preventative measures to ensure that an adoption doesn’t fail.”
Research conducted by the 12 interns culminated in a policy report distributed to members of Congress and child welfare advocates at the briefing.
ECU student Destiny Reid educates members of Congress on adoption issues during a July information session.
“Foster care alumni are the true experts on foster care,” CCAI Executive Director Becky Weichhand said.
“These interns bring their individual passion to make a difference in the lives of other foster children and, as a result, federal policymakers are influenced to make changes necessary to improve the system so future children will be spared the challenges these individuals have struggled to overcome.”
Reid hopes she made an impact on members of Congress during the briefing. “I know that changing legislation won’t happen overnight, but there are adoptive homes that aren’t a good fit for kids and it’s really hard for them to speak out on that. There needs to be more post-adoption follow-up processes,” she said.
During her time on Capitol Hill, Reid also worked in the office of Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). One of her assignments during the internship involved crafting responses to constituent emails in a mature and professional way. She learned a lot, and said she was well prepared for the task by her courses at ECU.
“My business writing professor, Dr. Matthew Cox, taught me a lot of skills that I used (during the internship),” she said. “The experience I got in his class also helped me write better essays when applying for the program. I really loved his down-to-earth teaching style and his lessons stuck with me.”
Majoring in business management with a concentration in international business, she hopes to ultimately run a non-profit organization helping foster youth transition out of care – the same way she’s been helped by the family she was placed with seven years ago. “They treat me just like I’m theirs and have been so good to me,” she said.
Concerning her future, Reid wants to change the lives of children who have been down similar paths.
“I know it’s a big goal, but I want to help people the way my parents helped me,” she said. “Foster kids can’t do what normal kids can do; even getting licenses or birth certificates to get a job – those kinds of things are more challenging. And I want to help them become great. That’s my dream.”
The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) (
) is a non-profit organization that educates and raises awareness of the needs of children without families. By convening policymakers, issue experts and individuals with direct foster care or adoption experience, CCAI works to ensure that every child knows the love and support of a family.
The panel presentation designed to educate members of Congress about "adoption disruption” versus “adoption dissolution" and other legislative recommendations is shown below.
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