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March 2019Vol. 20, No. 2Modeling Youth and Family Engagement Through Capacity Building

Written by the Children's Bureau's Capacity Building Center for States

On behalf of the Children's Bureau, the Capacity Building Center for States (the Center) provides support to states and jurisdictions to:

  • Strengthen, implement, and sustain effective child welfare practice
  • Achieve better outcomes for children, youth, and families

The Center recognizes youth and family engagement as an integral part of successful and sustained organizational and systems change in child welfare and, to this end, incorporates parent, caregiver, and youth voice in every aspect of its service delivery. The Center recruits, trains, and supports pools of highly skilled family and young adults. In many cases, the Center utilizes family and young adult consultants (YACs) to help build the capacity of states and jurisdictions to meaningfully engage youth and families.

The Center's family consultants are experienced in leading family empowerment efforts and representing family voice at the state and national levels. They include biological parents, relative caregivers, and foster parents with personal and professional experience in the child welfare system.

YACs, all of whom are between 18 and 26 years old, have lived experiences in the foster care system. In addition, each YAC is proficient in one or more child welfare topic areas, including, but not limited to, youth engagement, youth development, independent living services, extended foster care, congregate care, the National Youth in Transition Database, maintaining family and sibling connections, and developing youth advisory boards.

The Center's family consultants and YACs share, and train others to share, their lived experiences in ways that can inform and improve child welfare policies and practice. Both family consultants and YACs have experience providing analysis, recommendations, feedback, and training to the child welfare field. They lend their lived experience and professional expertise to respond to the needs of jurisdictions. Family consultants and YACs are competitively compensated for their time, effort, and participation in projects and consultation, and the Center provides ongoing training and support to further develop their skills.

Since 2015, family consultants and YACs have contributed to nearly 100 center and federal projects, including the following:

For more information about the Center's family consultants and YACs, contact the Center at