Improving the Experience of Child Welfare Systems
Child welfare is a continuum of services designed to keep children safe and families supported. Current outcomes for children who enter foster care in the United States are very negative. The rate of PTSD is higher among youth leaving foster care than it is among war veterans returning from Afghanistan. Many agencies are working to improve prevention services to keep families together, while more positively impacting the youth who enter and leave foster care. I've worked on projects at the national and local levels to help child welfare experts drive systems to be more youth- and family-centered and trauma-informed.
In 2015 and 2016, I had the honor of working with the Administration for Children, Youth & Families on an effort to learn how the federal government could better support state and county child welfare agencies. My team conducted stakeholder interviews across the country and went on ride alongs with social workers to see the front lines of child welfare social work. We used this research to map the experience of youth in foster care, collaborating with foster youth alumni and staff from D.C.'s Child & Family Services Agency.
Foster Care guide for youth in Allegheny county
Summary: After speaking with youth in the foster care system, and those who had once been in it, it was clear that there was a lot of confusion caused by this system being so large and complex. The government acronyms and legal language make it challenging for youth to understand what's going on and how to get through the experience. On top of that, they typically feel like THEY'VE done something wrong and carry those feelings with them.
To help youth understand how foster care is intended to protect them, how to navigate the system, what their rights are, how to deal with trauma, what resources are available to them, and to provide a tool that can facilitate important conversations between youth and social workers, I'm leading a team that's co-designing a resource about foster care for youth, with youth.
The content and look and feel are being driven by youth input. It's being written in plain language, and with helpful visuals. It will be available this fall both in print and online.
Process shown below
Outcomes: We're currently testing a draft of the new guide with youth. The feedback so far has been very positive, and it's on schedule to be released in the Fall of 2017.
There will be two more guides in the series: one about juvenile justice and one about mental health. Additionally, we'll be working with our policy experts to improve other forms of client communications.
Role: Design Strategy, Facilitation, Copywriting, Project Management | Graphic Design & Illustrations by Meredith Joos
How might we decrease trauma and increase youth voice in Allegheny County?
A team of us from DHS facilitated a design thinking session at the 2017 Allegheny County Children's Roundtable with youth, staff and judges from the court system. We discovered actionable insights for reducing youth trauma that included:
1) Redesigning the family court experience
2) Involving CYF youth more frequently in family finding
3) Involving youth in service delivery planning for foster care
4) Creating a common language across systems