Today, First Lady Melania Trump held a virtual roundtable to discuss the foster care system in the United States and the Administration’s ongoing efforts to support safe, stable and permanent families for children and youth. Those efforts include the June 24, 2020 Executive Order on Strengthening the Child Welfare System for America’s Children, which President Trump signed last week with the First Lady in attendance.
The First Lady invited participants who are advocates for foster children and who have been impacted by the foster care system, including young adults who have spent time in foster care, foster parents, and representatives from foster care and adoption organizations. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar; Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson of the Administration for Children and Families; Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President; and Emma Doyle, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy to the First Lady also participated in the roundtable.
First Lady Melania Trump opened the event by highlighting that the first pillar of her Be Best initiative is well-being, including social, emotional, and physical health. Mrs. Trump emphasized the need to increase partnerships, resources, and transparency in the foster care system, particularly given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on America’s foster children and families.
Following introductions, the First Lady moderated a discussion with the roundtable participants. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and First Lady Fran DeWine, Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, First Lady Donna Edwards of Louisiana and State Senator Doug Mastriano of Pennsylvania spoke about their ongoing work on primary prevention and permanent placement. Foster care advocates shared their personal experiences with the system and discussed lessons from the pandemic, innovations in the child placement system, the importance of trauma-informed training, and the intrinsic, lifelong need for each person to have the support of a loving family, both in childhood and beyond.
The First Lady concluded the roundtable by thanking everyone for their advocacy and praising the strength and resilience of several of the participants, noting that children in America are safer today because of their efforts. Mrs. Trump emphasized her commitment to this vital issue and encouraged those in attendance to continue to work with the Administration to ensure all children are able to thrive.
Governor Mike DeWine & First Lady Fran DeWine, Ohio
Governor Chris Sununu, New Hampshire
State Senator Doug Mastriano, Pennsylvania
First Lady Donna Edwards, Louisiana
Rita Soronsen, CEO, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids
Pam Parishes, Founder and Executive Director, Connection Homes
Thea Ramirez, Founder & CEO of Adoption Share
Lee Vasquez and Kaari Vasquez, Foster Parents
Christina Meredith, Founder, Christina Meredith Foundation
Joshua Christian, Student, Advocate, and Author
Ruby Tucker, UCLA Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families