I’m plugged into a network of researchers and interest groups, which helps to inform my work for Congress. I can better understand all sides of an issue and better assist Congress in making policy choices."
As a specialist in social policy at the Congressional Research Service, Adrienne Fernandes Alcantara (MPP '06) addresses the barriers vulnerable youth face, including youth who experience homelessness, foster care, sex trafficking, challenges in the labor market, and early pregnancy. In her 2018 report, Alcantara outlines the federal response to supporting youth who are disconnected from work or school, or have other challenges as they transition to adulthood. Alcantara says so much of her work is informed by effectively listening to a variety of stakeholders, like the research community, organizations that represent states, localities, and service providers and more –a skill she honed at the Ford School.
In her position, Alcantara helps Congress understand challenges and experiences on the ground by translating research and distilling information from multiple sources. “Youth face a number of challenges while in foster care and as they emancipate when reaching the age of adulthood,” she said.
She also provides legislative options for Congress to consider as they work to solve policy issues for foster youth and other vulnerable populations. Alcantara acts as a “conduit between what’s happening on the ground and policymakers. I’m plugged into a network of researchers and interest groups, which helps to inform my work for Congress. I can better understand all sides of an issue and better assist Congress in making policy choices,” she said. Further, she provides timely, authoritative, and objective analysis for Congress throughout the legislative process – from drafting a bill to implementing a law.
She gained crucial writing and analytical skills during her time at the Ford School that she utilizes in her day-to-day work. “Members can decide the “right” policy for them. My job is to assist with exploring policy problems and legislative responses, considering counter arguments, and determining how policy might play out in communities.”
Alcantara underscored that to be effective, she has to work collaboratively. “I can’t think of a job in DC where you are not on a team. At CRS we collaborate all the time. Our work is informed and improved by working with others,” she said. The Ford School’s team and group-oriented classroom style helped sharpen her group research and writing expertise.
Coming from the Department of Justice, Alcantara wanted a program that could help advance her career, and give her the tools for understanding the issues facing vulnerable youth and how policy can mitigate these problems. “The professional and experienced staff at Graduate Career Services was a major deciding factor for me. Ford School alumni also made a compelling case for attending. They pointed to the specific skills that helped them while looking for employment and later when they were on the job.”
Read Fernandes Alcantara’s CRS reports here.