Family-centered practice focuses on the healthy growth and development of children and youth within a family context. Family-centered practice is consistent with the approach known as positive youth development, which views all youth as having inherent strengths and potential and focuses on promoting a youth's development rather than identifying and fixing his or her problems. This begins by providing youth with opportunities for full participation in decisions that affect their lives and supports that facilitate meaningful involvement.
The following resources address engaging children and youth involved with child welfare and include State and local examples.
Achieving Authentic Youth Engagement: Core Values & Guiding Principles (PDF - 235 KB)
Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative (2014)
Describes effective partnerships between adults and young people and how to achieve them. The resource explains how young people should be effectively prepared to make informed decisions about matters that affect their lives and how these young people should be provided with services and supportive relationships that meet their needs.
Child Welfare Webinar: Maximizing Youth Engagement in Court Reviews and Case Planning [Webinar]
The Annie E. Casey Foundation (2016)
Explains how authentic youth engagement is critical to improving outcomes for young people as they transition from foster care into adulthood and discusses effective ways to achieve authentic engagement. The webinar reviews a program that works and how to replicate it elsewhere.
Eight Successful Youth Engagement Approaches
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Adolescent Health (2018)
Reviews youth engagement approaches, including youth councils, youth voice, youth leadership programs, youth advocacy, and youth service. For each approach, the website includes a description and links to relevant examples of such programs.
Engaging Youth: Extending Foster Care Policy Toolkit (PDF - 447 KB)
National Conference of State Legislatures (2015)
Examines how different States work to engage young people in foster care in decision-making and planning for the future. The resource explores different policies, including promoting the youth voice in court, developing youth advisory boards, and supporting youth participation in their own case planning and case review while in foster care.
Engaging Youth in Foster Care [Podcast]
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children & Families, Children's Bureau (2016)
Presents a podcast that gives caseworkers the perspective of former youth in foster care. The podcast provides tips on using Facebook to learn about youth in care, information about the knowledge gap these youth may have about transitioning to adulthood, and suggestions for ways to help youth recognize the supportive adults in their lives and develop trusting relationships.
Perspectives on Youth Engagement [Webinar]
Capacity Building Center for States (2016)
Provides information on how to engage youth and young adults in child welfare practice and how to use certain strategies to support youth engagement, including presentations on the importance of working across multiple States and systems, engaging youth in State processes from a Federal perspective, current State and local efforts to develop youth boards, and current efforts to effectively engage youth in the State of Utah.
National Indian Child Welfare Association (2018)
Describes the importance of youth empowerment programming with a positive youth development approach and youth engagement. The website describes projects and partners working with Tribes to empower youth, discusses policy and advocacy around this topic, and links to additional research and resources.
California Youth Connection
Highlights a youth-led organization that develops leaders who empower each other and their communities to transform the foster care system through legislative, policy, and practice change. The organization's vision is that all youth in foster care will be equal partners in contributing to policies and decisions made in their lives.
Engaging Youth in Court: A National Analysis (PDF - 563 KB)
American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law (2015)
Summarizes assessments completed in New Jersey, Washington, Kansas, Colorado, Vermont, and Delaware to examine those States' efforts to improve youth engagement in court. The publication also addresses the benefits of youth participation in decisions affecting their lives.
Florida Youth Leadership Academy
Florida Department of Children and Families (2014)
Helps youth involved with Florida's child welfare system by inspiring them through healthy relationship building, exploring leadership development, and engaging with their communities. The participants are each matched with an adult mentor who provides them with ongoing support and encourages engagement through activities that reinforce the goals and objectives of the academy.
Foster Youth in Action
Partners with California Youth Connection, Oregon Youth Connection, and other State and local organizations to work toward a vision of organized groups and youth in foster care working locally, regionally, and nationally together to ensure that the diverse voices of young people are truly represented.
Oregon Foster Youth Connection
Empowers current and former youth in foster care to share their voices and be heard on key decisions affecting children and youth in foster care. With peer support, leadership skills, and civic engagement, these youth take the lead in improving their own lives and the lives of thousands of other children in Oregon's child welfare system.
Youth Empowerment Program
Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center
Aims to shift the child welfare and juvenile justice systems by highlighting the experiences and expertise of young people who have personally experienced foster are. The program works to create a youth-led, peer-driven advocacy group of young people, ages 15 to 25, who have experienced or are currently in out-of-home care. As part of the national Foster Youth in Action network, the group is committed to improving the foster care system.
Youth Engagement Project (YEP)
Child & Family Policy Institute of California (2018)
Works to build capacity for youth engagement in the child welfare system through integrated partnerships in which youth in foster care are included in policy and practice decisions that affect them. The project aims to ensure that youth receive the preparation and support they need to share constructive ideas that can be implemented.
Youth Engagement Toolkit
Texas Network of Youth Services (2018)
Provides a series of factsheets about youth engagement, presentations, worksheets, videos, and other materials relating to engaging youth. The resources cover reasons agencies might incorporate youth voice, how to assess an agency's status on youth engagement, research and evidence-based practice that supports the value of youth engagement, and more.
Maryland Youth Launching Initiatives for Empowerment (MYLIFE)
Examines the youth engagement model used by an organization in Maryland in which current and former youth in foster care, service providers, local and State child welfare staff, and community leaders work to address individual needs and ensure youth involvement.