All young people should be active participants in shaping their lives and directing their futures. This approach, known as authentic youth engagement, works when young people and supportive adults work together as partners. Authentically engaging with youth leads to positive outcomes for youth, families, and communities. For example, it can help youth develop higher self-esteem, improved leadership, and a stake in their own lives and communities.
Young people should be involved in decisions about their lives, including how the child welfare system should support them. Authentic youth engagement is based on a scientific understanding of adolescent brain development and what youth need to grow and mature. Youth should be continuously and effectively engaged by positive adults who can help them build important life skills, such as reasoning and decision-making.
This section provides information for child welfare professionals and other adults in youths' lives about engaging youth authentically, continuously, and effectively. It also offers resources for youth on opportunities for inclusion and participating in decisions that affect their lives and on meaningful involvement.
Authentic Youth Engagement
Annie E. Casey Foundation
Provides resources on authentic youth engagement and emerging best practices, including a framework for effectively partnering with young people that reviews how youth engagement benefits young people, why it works, and examples of authentic youth engagement.
Collaborative Family Engagement: Why It’s More Crucial Than Ever for Children in Care
CASA Child Advocates of Montgomery County
Reviews the importance of collaborative family engagement and ensuring children and youth in out-of-home care are in touch with positive family members, friends, caseworkers, teachers, and other supportive contacts. The article refers to the Collaborative Family Engagement Tools: A Pocket Guide for Connecting With and Searching for Families (PDF - 1,940 KB).
COVID-19 Practice Guidance for CW Virtual Engagement, Information Gathering, & Assessment (PDF - 322 KB)
Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (2020)
Offers guidance for child welfare caseworkers on in-person contacts as well as virtual engagement, contacts, information gathering, and assessment during the COVID-19 pandemic, including information about youth.
Eight Successful Youth Engagement Approaches
Presents eight approaches that can be used to engage youth, including youth governance, youth boards, youth voice, leadership programs, advocacy, service, and youth organizing.
Elevating Youth Perspectives Through Research in Child Welfare
Presents a tool for child welfare researchers and stakeholders to use when consulting with young people. The tool discusses the benefits of youth-informed research and how to meaningfully engage youth.
Embracing a “Youth Welfare” System: A Guide to Capacity Building
Capacity Building Center for States (2020)
Addresses how State agencies can shift their focus from a child-focus system to a youth focus system by implementing practices to better support youth and their needs.
Empowering Youth to Share Their Voices and Be Heard
Capacity Building Center for States (2019)
Children's Bureau Express, 20(9)
Examines how encouraging youth to share their own opinions on permanency planning and the overall child welfare system can empower them to make decisions about their futures. The article lists several strategies and resources to help child welfare agencies engage young people and empower youth voices.
Engaging Youth and Caregivers in Developing Support Services
Highlights the importance of meaningful engagement of birth, adoptive, and kinship families occurs and provides tips on how to engage parents, caregivers, and youth to work collaboratively to achieve the needs of the family.
Engaging Young People in a Virtual World
Offers information on engaging young people virtually and establishing online safety. The webpage also includes links to additional resources on topics such as mentoring, vulnerability during the COVID-19 crisis, and how to engage young people during difficult times.
Engaging Youth in NYTD (PDF - 368 KB)
Capacity Building Center for States (2016)
Provides information on effectively integrating youth voice into a State’s efforts to collect and use National Youth in Transition Database data, including strategies for recruiting and engaging youth as partners.
Ensuring Young People Flourish: Applying the Science of Adolescent Development Through the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative (PDF - 126 KB)
Poirier, Gross, Lohrbach, Johnson, & Wilkie (2020)
Child Welfare, 97(6)
Reviews efforts of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative to transform child welfare policy and practice using recent advances in adolescent brain science and authentic youth engagement strategies. The article presents resources and systems that child welfare communities can use to authentically and effectively engage young people to support a successful transition into adulthood.
Having the Right People
Capacity Building Center for States (2017)
Describes characteristics of the "right people" for engaging youth and offers practical guidance for building organizational capacity for recruiting, hiring, and retaining these employees.
How Can We Prioritize Constituent Voice and Choice?
Casey Family Programs (2019)
Examines the importance of constituent voice, including youth voice for continuous improvement in child welfare. The article reviews how other systems have approached constituent voice and choice and provides examples of constituent involvement in child welfare systems.
Implementing Flexible and Innovative Programs and Practices
Capacity Building Center for States (2017)
Discusses the characteristics of flexible and innovative programs and practices for youth engagement, highlights examples of such programs in States, and offers practical guidance for building organizational capacity for implementing these programs.
The Necessity of Authentic Engagement: 5 Ways to Build Connections With Youth Facing Adversity
Rehmert & Powell (2019)
Discusses engagement with young people facing adversity and why youth engagement is necessary. The article lists ways to build connections with youth facing adversity and offers youth perspectives on each.
Principles for Youth Engagement
Describes three principles for youth engagement: preparation, support, and opportunity. The webpage also discusses why engaging young people is important and provides benefits for those involved.
Strategies for Authentic Integration of Family and Youth Voice in Child Welfare
Capacity Building Center for States
Offers a tip sheet and other resources relating to engaging youth at the child welfare system and agency levels. The resources provide child welfare professionals with tips, strategies, and examples from the field.
Study Documents the Benefits of Authentic Youth Engagement
Annie E. Casey Foundation (2019)
Summarizes a study on the benefits of authentic youth engagement across four sites. Findings showed that authentic youth engagement helps build self-confidence and self-advocacy skills.
Transformational Relationships for Youth Success (PDF - 6,636 KB)
Center for the Study of Social Policy (2017)
Presents findings from a study on transformational relationships between youth and workers across a variety of settings. The report includes feedback from more than 80 interviews with youth, workers, and organizational leaders, as well as recommendations for service providers and public systems.
Using Media Effectively With Young Children and Virtual Visitation/Part One: Virtual Communication With Young Children [Video]
Center for Child Welfare (2020)
Shares information on how to use remote and virtual communication to maintain relationships during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. Part two of the video is also available online.
What Is Youth Engagement, Really?
Act for Youth (2019)
Describes youth engagement, why it is important, and the benefits of engaging youth. The website also lists several resources on strengthening communities through youth engagement, youth as evaluators, youth involvement in engagement assessments, and other related topics.
Youth Engagement Blueprint [Infographic]
Capacity Building Center for States (2017)
Illustrates the four thematic pillars necessary for organizational capacity supporting engagement with young people currently and formerly in foster care.
Youth Engagement Toolkit
Texas Network of Youth Services
Presents a toolkit on youth engagement that includes definitions, a roadmap, and examples of engagement in the field.
Youth Support Partners
Provides information to educate and empower youth about their role in planning for their future and encourage youth voice during every phase of service development.