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UMD Student Michael Duvall Helps Shape Child Welfare Law

MIchael DuvallDuluth native and University of Minnesota Duluth student Michael Duvall is one of 15 college students from across the nation who will spend the summer on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. as part of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute's (CCAI) Foster Youth Internship (FYI) program. This summer-long assignment provides individuals who have spent time in the United States foster care system with an opportunity to intern in a Congressional office, and share their experiences, opinions and unique perspectives with policymakers in Congress. Duvall will be interning in Senator Amy Klobuchar's offices.

"Michael comes to Washington not only as foster youth intern, but as a voice of every child in the foster care system," said Kathleen Strottman, Executive Director of CCAI. "Michael and the 14 other foster youth interns help challenge members of Congress to think about how federal policymakers can forge a new path for the over 400,000 children entrusted to our care."

Duvall was placed into homes of friends and family at the age of 13 after the death of his mother. He entered the Minnesota state foster system at 15. He had multiple placements, forcing him to change homes and schools, leaving behind friends and classmates. Minnesota law allows extended foster care until the age of 21, and at 18, Duvall made the decision to stay in the state system. "My experience in the foster care system went fairly smoothly, which is uncommon," he commented. "But like many other foster children, I endured many emotional hardships, identity crises, and feelings of loneliness and depression."

Less than 50 percent of individuals in foster care graduate from high school. Duvall overcame the odds and graduated from Duluth Central High School and is currently taking coursework in pre-law and accounting at UMD. He hopes to use his knowledge of and personal experience with the foster care system to affect change at the national level.

"Being in foster care has shaped me into the person I am today. I want to establish a good legislative briefing that will make a difference in improving the lives of future foster children," said Duvall. "I also hope to gain invaluable experience working in a congressional office and take that with me into the future."

As part of their assignment, FYIs research issues impacting children in foster care across the country and compile their findings and recommendations into a policy report. This document is presented at a Congressional briefing and shared with child welfare advocates across the country. In past years, these reports have generated both local and national attention to the critical issues facing the 423,000 children currently in the United States foster care system.

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (www.ccainstitute.org) is a non-governmental, nonprofit organization that strives to be an objective, educational resource for information critical to advancing the efforts of federal policymakers on behalf of children in need of homes.

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