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November 2021Vol. 22, No. 10The Role of Leaders in Engaging Youth and Families to Achieve Timely Permanency

Engaging youth and families in permanency planning by acknowledging that they are the experts of their own lives can help improve outcomes and well-being as well as expedite finding permanent homes for waiting children and youth. The Capacity Building Center for States, a service of the Children's Bureau, released a report that aims to build youth and family engagement by identifying key steps child welfare leaders and agencies can take to promote a culture of partnership and engagement between child welfare professionals and the youth and families they serve.

The report focuses on building an organizational culture for authentic engagement through developing a "culture of curiosity," which empowers staff to ask questions that will tap into the expertise of families to gain information about how best to serve them. It also discusses prioritizing engagement through intentional action. Child welfare professionals should actively encourage conversations with youth and families, allow for time and coaching for frontline workers to build meaningful relationships, and integrate expectations for engagement into position descriptions and performance evaluations. The report provides ways child welfare leaders can embed these engagement strategies into practice and includes questions to consider and tips for getting started.

The following are some of ways to encourage engagement:

  • Identify and reach out to youth and families by inviting them to participate and creating opportunities for them to share in the process. 
  • Level the playing field by understanding and acknowledging the power differential between child welfare professionals and the families they serve and work to lessen it.
  • Set the parameters for purposeful and actionable engagement.
To learn more about youth and family engagement strategies and the importance of incorporating family voice into permanency planning, read The Role of Leaders in Engaging Youth and Families to Achieve Timely Permanency for Children and Youth Waiting to Be Adopted.