Lawson Teams up with Mercedes Parson for Annual Foster Youth Shadow Day
WASHINGTON DC – Today, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson (FL-05) participated in the 8th Annual "Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Day" on Capitol Hill. He was joined Mercedes Parson, a West Palm Beach native who spent much of her life in-and-out of the foster care system. The annual event brings more than 100 foster youth alumni from across the country to Washington to shadow members of Congress and get a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the House of Representatives.
"It was such a pleasure to welcome Mercedes to Capitol Hill for Foster Youth Shadow Day," Rep. Lawson said. "I want to thank her for coming to our nation’s capital and having the bravery to share her story with me. I was inspired with her strength and resiliency, and I remain committed to ensuring that our nation’s child welfare system provides these young people with a safe, stable and loving home.”
Parson, 22, and Rep. Lawson attended the House Financial Services Committee meeting, chaired by Rep. Maxine Waters, followed by Congressional Luncheon with other members of Congress. Parson said she hopes her experiences in the child welfare system will help to influence policy around foster care. The mother of two first entered the foster care system when she was 12. After aging out of the system, she said she had to learn how to survive on her own. Parson is currently a senior criminal justice student at Florida International University.
There are more than 400,000 youth in the foster care system. This year’s Shadow Day includes 130 delegates aged between 18 to 30. They have spent a combined 725 years in the child welfare system. Rep. Lawson understands it is imperative to develop approaches to ensure that the nation's vulnerable youth are provided with the opportunities and support necessary to succeed.
“The experiences of youth transitioning out of the foster care system without a permanent home place them at a higher risk for unemployment, poor educational outcomes, health issues, early parenthood, long-term dependency on public assistance, increased rates of incarceration and homelessness,” he said. “We must work hard to reverse these trends by creating permanent homes for young people in foster care much faster – either through reunification, kinship care, guardianship or adoption.”