Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

July/August 2024Vol. 25, No. 6A Message From Commissioner Rebecca Jones Gaston

Written by Commissioner Rebecca Jones Gaston

Over the last 18 months, I had the pleasure of traveling around the country to each of the 10 Regional Offices of the Administration for Children and Families. It was a great privilege to meet with many Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) staff and regional teams as well as many tribal nation leaders and community partners. I visited grantees for programs related to child welfare, runaway and homeless youth, positive youth development, and adolescent pregnancy prevention, and I heard about the successes and challenges in our collective efforts to promote the well-being of children, youth, young adults, and families. 

But do you want to know my favorite part? It was meeting with the children, youth, families, caregivers, and others who receive ACYF programs and services. I specifically remember one youth during my travels to the southern regions—a young teen with floppy hair and a big smile who I’ll call “Charlie.” Charlie heard I was coming and asked the program staff if he could speak with me because he had “something he needed to say.” And that something sticks with me even today. In so many words, he shared how important it was that he and his sister be placed together in a foster home rather than be separated. He lit up as he talked about his sister and their bond. It struck me as a concrete reminder of how vital our role is in keeping families together and strengthening connections as well as the importance of engaging youth and families in all aspects of our work.

ACYF and our programs within the Children’s Bureau and Family and Youth Services Bureau are committed to partnering with those with lived experience and integrating their voices into our work and policies. We recognize the value of authentic, varied, and diverse engagement and believe those with lived experience can provide valuable insights that inform and transform systems, practices, and outcomes.

We must listen to what people are saying about their needs and shape our actions to what is and is not needed to meet those needs. And we must join with youth like Charlie, developing them as leaders and supporting their participation and leadership in change efforts. What action can you take today to partner with those with lived experience?