Individuals who have experienced the child welfare system—either directly (as parents or children) or indirectly (as extended family, tribal, or community members)—have a unique understanding of how the system works. Their perspectives are essential to improving policies and practices intended to keep children safe and families together.
This brief describes the work of the Children’s Bureau Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative to integrate the voices of people with lived experience into child welfare reform. The Collaborative provides technical assistance to states, courts, and tribes as they strive to improve child welfare systems. Drawing on a review of relevant literature and resources as well as interviews with Collaborative staff, we explore how lived experience has been defined and incorporated into improvement efforts and discuss associated benefits, challenges, and opportunities.