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Amplifying Lived Voices: Resources to Engage Lived Experience in Prevention Programming

The resources highlighted in this post will help child- and family-serving professionals better understand what it looks like to authentically engage lived experts and execute the key steps to promote genuine partnerships.

Prevention is a complex issue demanding a multifaceted approach. While data and research are crucial, there’s another powerful tool often underutilized: lived expertise.

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, “Lived experience, sometimes called lived expertise, refers to the knowledge and perspectives of those who have firsthand involvement with child welfare. These individuals have valuable insights about the system’s impact, so it is crucial that family-serving organizations collaborate with them to develop, implement, and improve policies, practices, and programs.”

Even when agencies have experience engaging youth and families along the continuum of child welfare practice, partnering for prevention may reveal unique challenges and opportunities. (Capacity Building Center for States)

By amplifying the voices of those who have lived experience, such as parents, youth, and kinship caregivers, we can create more effective prevention strategies that go beyond theory and develop programs that truly address the root causes of abuse and neglect. So, how can we move from rhetoric to genuine partnership? Here are some key steps:

  1. Open the Door to Collaboration: Seek diverse voices (race, ethnicity, culture, socioeconomics) and involve youth and families in the planning process from the start.
  2. Center Lived Expertise: Create safe spaces where you actively listen and validate concerns. Support qualitative lived experience with quantitative data to form a complete picture.
  3. Build Trust & Transparency: Set clear expectations for collaboration and communicate regularly with lived experts. Everyone’s voice should be heard and valued equally.
  4. Move from Planning to Action: Involved lived experts in program implementation to foster a sense of ownership and seek ongoing feedback to monitor program effectiveness.

The resources highlighted in this post will help child- and family-serving professionals better understand what it looks like to authentically engage lived experts and execute the abovementioned key steps to promote collaboration.

Resources to Support Engagement + Collaboration

California Training Institute (CalTrin)

Hey, that’s us! CalTrin has hosted various trainings on engaging lived experience in prevention planning and programs. When possible, we also engage lived experts to present training on prevention and family-strengthening topics. Access recordings and materials from prior trainings, and check out the calendar for future webinars and workshops! You can also explore our relevant resource collections.  

Administration for Children & Families

Explore resources from the HHS Administration for Children & Families and its subsidiary programs, including the Children’s Bureau and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, related to engaging live experience in child welfare and prevention:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

The 2023/2024 Prevention Guide was developed with direct input from individuals with lived experience. Specifically, Chapter Five: Embracing Community and the Wisdom of Families with Lived Experience focuses on the fourth level of the social-ecological model and highlights the spaces where child abuse prevention and family support agencies interact and engage with the communities they serve. Download a copy of the guide here.

Casey Family Programs

Casey Family Programs is a national organization that works to support safe children, strong families, and supportive communities. Explore their research and findings, including:

Capacity Building Center for States

The Center for States helps public child welfare organizations and professionals build the capacity necessary to strengthen, implement, and sustain effective child welfare practice and achieve better outcomes for children, youth, and families. Use these resources to learn actionable ways to engage in authentic, nonexploitative storytelling practices with people with lived experience and expertise:

Child Welfare Information Gateway

The Child Welfare Information Gateway has put together a collection of resources to demonstrate how meaningfully engaging those with lived experience requires equal partnership throughout the process in order to drive change and identify solutions. Get started:

*Last updated June 21, 2024