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April 2023Vol. 24, No. 3Strategies for Collaborating With Youth and Families With Lived Experience in Child Welfare

The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare published the brief Engaging Parents and Youths With Lived Experience: Strengthening Collaborative Policy and Practice Initiatives for Families With Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders, which outlines key strategies that should be considered when building cross-system collaborative partnerships with adults and youth who were involved with the child welfare system due to a substance use disorder or other mental health challenges. Engaging those with lived experience helps agencies and collaboratives better understand how their services impact those who receive them.

Great care must be taken, however, when asking people with lived experience to join. Collaboratives should be clear about their purpose and the expected level of engagement. They should also work to establish an environment that fosters respect and equalizes power among collaborative members in a way that supports cultural diversity and creates an inclusive environment.

This resource presents the benefits and challenges to help collaboratives decide whether to have mixed participant meetings (both parents and youth) or separate groups (parents or youth only) and other guidance about organizing the meetings. It also addresses several other aspects of creating a collaborative partnership:

  • Financial considerations, such as a budget, parent and youth compensation, and other reimbursements
  • Identification of parent and youth representatives, including the target population, eligibility criteria, term limits, and other considerations
  • Participant safety, including confidentiality, support, and trauma awareness
  • Quality input, which can be supported through orientations for and communication with participants, technology, and evaluation

It also includes additional considerations for youth and resources and links to ensure collaboratives have the necessary information to support meaningful partnerships.

To read more, access the brief here.