A national effort is underway to establish new systems in child welfare to better engage and empower foster youth to take part in the decision making around their own care.
The new consortium, Quality Improvement Center on Engaging Youth in Finding Permanency, is made up of five member organizations and backed by more than $20 million in federal funding. Over the next five years, the consortium will launch pilot sites that “give youth an active role when decisions are made about their care, including reuniting them with their birth families or placing them in other legally recognized and permanent arrangements,” according to a press release from the University of Washington School of Social Work.
The sites will work with local youth in the foster care system, ages 12 to 20, to glean their greatest needs and their thoughts on what moves would be most helpful in achieving permanency. According to the release, the center will also develop trainings, tools and strategies focused on youth and child welfare professionals.
The School of Social Work was awarded $2.6 million to measure the project’s impact. The other grant recipients and consortium members are: Spaulding for Children, North American Council on Adoptable Children, New England Association of Child Welfare Commissioners and Directors, and University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Together, they’ll establish six to eight pilot sites before a national launch.
Angelique Day, School of Social Work associate professor, will be the lead evaluator on the project, in coordination with colleagues William Vesneski and Margaret Kuklinski.
“Our goal is to have a more youth-friendly process, particularly for older youth who know what permanency arrangements might work best for them,” said Day. “We want youth to be seen as competent and knowledgeable parties who deserve to have input and decision-making power about their own lives.”
The multimillion-dollar grant is being administered by the United States Children’s Bureau, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.