• April 2022
  • Vol. 23, No. 3

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Partnering for Prevention: Centering Lived Expertise

Written by the Capacity Building Center for States

Working in partnership with youth and families to center their lived expertise throughout planning and implementation can help agencies capitalize on the potential of the Family First Prevention Services Act and move further upstream toward primary prevention.

Even when agencies have experience engaging youth and families along the continuum of child welfare practice, partnering for prevention may reveal unique challenges and opportunities. In honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, bring your team together and use the discussion prompts below to brainstorm about how to amplify lived expertise in your prevention efforts:
  • Child welfare agencies may not be perceived as trusted organizations within the community. Consider how your agency can begin to overcome community trust issues as you work to identify partners with lived experience. 
    • Have we partnered successfully with youth, families, and community leaders in the past who would be interested in helping us build trust?
    • How are we sharing power with communities in our prevention efforts? How are they empowered to be responsive, and how are we resourcing their ideas?
    • How are we ensuring our relationship with community members is not transactional or only beneficial to the agency? What are communities gaining from partnering with us? 
    • How are we ensuring that our staff is reflective of the communities we serve?
  • Child welfare agencies often solicit feedback from a relatively small number of youth and families, particularly those who have had positive experiences with services. Consider how you can include different perspectives as you move toward prevention.  
    • How can we bring more partners with diverse experiences and perspectives to the table? What is the benefit for youth, families, and communities to partner with us? 
    • How are we committed to seeking and honoring multiple different viewpoints, including those who might share hard-to-hear information? What might be getting in the way?
    • What are we doing to hear from people with different types of experiences, including those with active cases and those who may be candidates for prevention services? How can we partner with community service providers to gather feedback from a wide range of youth and families?
  • Even when agencies are actively seeking to partner with youth and families, their commitment may not be evident in everyday practice. Consider what actions you can take to actively demonstrate the value of lived experience. 
    • How are youth and families compensated for their time partnering with us? How do we ensure that our process is mutually beneficial?
    • What are we doing to be intentional about the language and messaging we use to communicate about prevention efforts? Are communications decisions informed by youth and families? 
    • How are people with lived experience recruited, trained, and nurtured along a professional pathway toward highly visible, highly influential roles within the agency? 
  • Prevention efforts are an opportunity to advance racial equity and address disparate outcomes for people of color, particularly Black and Native American and Alaska Native youth and families. Consider how your prevention efforts are informed by an understanding of, and a commitment to, racial equity. 
    • How are we generating and using data to understand the degree of disparity and disproportionality present in the system? How are people with lived experience informing data collection? How are qualitative data from youth and families considered? 
    • How are we digging deeper into the data to understand and identify intersectional experiences with child welfare (for example, the experiences of Black women in particular zip codes in your community)?
    • How can we deepen our organizational understanding of unconscious bias and the impact of systemic racism in child welfare? How will that understanding inform our prevention approaches?
Check out the 2021/2022 Prevention Resource Guide to find additional information and questions for exploration.
 
Examples in Action
 
The following efforts are examples of partnering with lived experts along the prevention continuum: 
  • Birth Parent National Network—The Children's Trust Fund Alliance houses the Birth Parent National Network, a national network of parents with lived experience in child welfare who serve as leaders and partners in prevention and child welfare systems reform. Participating parents are supported and compensated for their time and expertise. 
  • Iowa Department of Human Services—Iowa recruits parents with lived expertise as mentors for other parents navigating child welfare services. Parent Partner program mentors have prior involvement with child protection that resulted in either successful reunification or resolution around termination of their parental rights. Once trained, mentors work intensively with other parents to encourage them, connect them to resources, help them advocate for themselves, and support them in completing their case plans. 

Additional Resources

 Explore the following resources as you consider opportunities to partner for prevention:
As you move toward a prevention-focused system, think about the expertise that youth and families have to offer and how much more successful the journey will be if you walk it together.
 

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