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October 2022Vol. 23, No. 8Prioritizing Youth Voice: The Importance of Authentic Youth Engagement in Case Planning

Youth involved with the child welfare system should be considered to be the experts on their own lives. As such, it is important to include youth experience and voice into the plans for their future. Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children's Bureau, released a bulletin, Prioritizing Youth Voice: The Importance of Authentic Youth Engagement in Case Planning, to help child welfare professionals understand the key concepts of youth engagement and learn strategies for including youth in their own case planning.

Youth engagement has been associated with numerous benefits, including helping youth develop skills such as reasoning, decision-making, self-regulation, self-esteem, leadership, and professional development. In addition, giving youth the opportunity to speak on their own behalf can help them gain a sense of empowerment and agency, help with healthy brain development, help them attain protective factors, improve outcomes, ensure youth receive appropriate services, and encourage positive system change.

The bulletin provides child welfare professionals and others working with youth with information about the following strategies for engaging youth:

  • Promoting normalcy by allowing youth to participate in age-appropriate activities, such as athletics, extracurriculars, learning to drive, sleepovers with friends, getting a job, and dating
  • Supporting young people's interests
  • Celebrating small and large accomplishments
  • Talking to youth in care about their feelings
  • Swapping casework visits with casual outings to help young people feel more comfortable
  • Being mindful of perceived stigma
  • Remembering that even youth with "uncomplicated" case plans need support
  • Partnering with other sectors
  • Letting youth decide who they want at family team meetings
  • Providing different options for engagement
  • Safely utilizing social media and technology
  • Being aware of caseworker turnover
  • Providing closure if leaving the job
  • Providing youth with opportunities outside of requirements
  • Preparing youth for transitioning out of care or permanency
  • Emphasizing the importance of youth advocacy while youth are still in the system
  • Connecting youth with peer support systems and peer-led programs

In addition to describing the above strategies, the bulletin also delves into the rights of youth in care, key concepts for engaging youth, prioritizing youth engagement at the agency level, and more.

To learn more about how to effectively engage youth in case planning, read the bulletin, Prioritizing Youth Voice: The Importance of Authentic Youth Engagement in Case Planning.