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Improving the Experience of Child Welfare Systems

This can have the experience map, the service blueprints, the survey pre and post, the guides and whatever else seems important

Improving the Experience of Child Welfare Systems

 
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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.

Click here to view the full case study for the Administration for Children, Youth & Families project


 

Foster Care guide for youth in Allegheny county

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We started by hosting conversations with youth about this project and asked them what was important to let youth know about. After that, we did a card sorting exercise to help identify critical content to include. Next, we had them vote on content with candy.

We started by hosting conversations with youth about this project and asked them what was important to let youth know about. After that, we did a card sorting exercise to help identify critical content to include. Next, we had them vote on content with candy.


Youth were given character development worksheets to imagine a character who could serve as a "guide" to help explain the foster care system. Their ideas were turned into illustrated characters.

Youth were given character development worksheets to imagine a character who could serve as a "guide" to help explain the foster care system. Their ideas were turned into illustrated characters.


By conducting a collaging activity with youth, we were able to learn more about their aesthetic preferences. One very helpful insight this revealed was that our youth gravitate towards words, phrases, images, and colors that are positive and uplifting. The big themes were survivorship, love, and power.

By conducting a collaging activity with youth, we were able to learn more about their aesthetic preferences. One very helpful insight this revealed was that our youth gravitate towards words, phrases, images, and colors that are positive and uplifting. The big themes were survivorship, love, and power.

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

 
These three characters will serve as "guides" for youth in foster care, and were dreamed up by youth who are currently in the foster care system, and our Youth Support Partners who have lived experience in the system and provide mentorship to youth. The words they say and their personalities were all written by youth. Illustrations by Meredith Joos.

These three characters will serve as "guides" for youth in foster care, and were dreamed up by youth who are currently in the foster care system, and our Youth Support Partners who have lived experience in the system and provide mentorship to youth. The words they say and their personalities were all written by youth. Illustrations by Meredith Joos.


 

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


 
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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

Click to view the full presentation