Changing Policy so Children Can Dream Dreams

This guest blog post was written by Alliance Policy Intern Alain Datcher reflecting on his summer internship in Washington D.C. with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption. You can also view Alain’s policy recommendation on page 25 of Our Voice, Their Future (linked below).

Before boarding the plane headed to Washington, D.C. this summer, one main goal was on my mind: to stand where Rev. Martin Luther King stood during his “I Have a Dream” speech. I had that opportunity, and there on the steps of Lincoln Memorial I silently pondered his message. I asked myself, what does his words mean to you? I hoped by standing there I would be inspired, gaining some insight before beginning my internship with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption. However, I experienced something more impactful than I could have imagined.

While pondering Dr. King’s words, I thought back to another prominent Black American figure who inquired about dreams-Langston Hughes. In his acclaimed poem “Harlem” Hughes poses the question; “What happens to a dream deferred?” Though his inquiry may have been focused on the African-American experience of the early 1950s, this question is very applicable to the condition of current and former foster youth all across the United States. As one who shares that experience, the significance of interning on Capitol Hill meant so much more.

While interning on Capitol Hill, I had the opportunity to see firsthand how laws were made. In many ways, I saw laws as dreams clothed in words and policy and the Hill was where those dreams could be brought to fruition. Now palpable, these dreams could take form and I got to take part in it. Because I have seen the benefits and plights of strong policy, politics and lawmaking has interested me for years. I had the opportunity to advocate on behalf of a demographic who knows far too well the benefits and plights of the law. While briefing members of Congress and the Department of Health and Human Services I shared my dream in the form of a policy recommendation. Dr. King desired to let everyone under the sound of his voice, and the world know of his dream. I believe I did the same. Far too long children have been told “be patient”, “wait”, and that their dreams of a forever family have to be delayed until the process of lawmaking runs its course. As a foster youth intern, my role was to express their dreams to policymakers; to remind them that their dream can and should be realized. There, before members of congress and advocates, I had my own ‘dream moment’.

In just a few weeks, Americans will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. While on the forefront of our citizen’s minds, there isn’t a more opportune time to think about the condition of our nation’s children. The night before my flight back to L.A., I revisited the Lincoln Memorial. I realized that like King, I also have a dream; to see every child in this country in a permanent, safe, loving home. It’s a lofty goal, but there standing once again I had a clearer of the meaning of Dr. King’s words. I found a grandiose dream, one that could honor Hughes, Dr. King and all those who converged before Lincoln a half century ago. To improve the lives of children, who like me have dreamed dreams.