Spotlight on Youth Voices: Why Family Matters

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Spotlight On...

Youth Voices: Why Family Matters


Engaging youth—especially older youth—in their own permanency planning can help child welfare systems meet the developmental needs of youth in foster care and achieve permanent family connections for those who are awaiting adoption. Supporting youth to express their thoughts, raise concerns, and ask questions about what permanency means to them can help youth be more open to adoption or guardianship.

This year’s National Adoption Month initiative focuses on strategies that child welfare systems can use to meaningfully and effectively engage youth to explore why family matters and what permanent families can mean for young people—both now and in the future. The initiative also seeks to empower youth to share their voices and perspectives on family and permanency.


  • More than 123,000 children and youth in foster care are waiting to be adopted nationally [1].
  • For youth ages 14 or older, federal law requires that agencies develop their case plans (and any revisions to their case plans) in consultation with them [2].
  • Empowering youth voice and supporting Positive Youth Development can allow young people to practice critical developmental tasks such as creating goals, planning, and leading tasks—all skills that can help them envision and plan for the future [3].
  • Nearly all states and territories require that older children give consent to their adoption [4].


To engage youth and empower youth voice, child welfare systems should give youth the opportunity to be heard, use their input when making critical decisions that affect their lives, and solicit and use their perceptions, experiences, and recommendations to make system-level improvements. A system that intends to prioritize youth voice must ensure that youth engagement occurs at multiple levels. 

AdoptUSKids provides resources and services on behalf of the Children’s Bureau to promote capacity building in the area of recruiting, engaging, developing, and supporting foster and adoptive families. AdoptUSKids, the Children’s Bureau, and Child Welfare Information Gateway have developed resources for National Adoption Month on engaging youth voices and encouraging youth to consider the importance of family.

The Capacity Building Center for States (the Center) helps jurisdictions build capacity to meaningfully engage youth in all levels of the system—from individual input in case planning to the development of partnerships for driving systems-level change. Led by its young adult consultants and youth development subject matter experts, the Center supports agencies to develop practices that facilitate the engagement of youth, such as building formal structures for youth to provide input; visiting children, youth, and caregivers; attending court with youth; and listening to child welfare professionals and youth about service needs.

The Center has several resources (below) to help agencies build capacity for engaging youth and incorporating youth voices into their practice.


Related Resources

Related Organizations

  • AdoptUSKids – Works to ensure that children and teens in foster care get safe, loving, permanent families and provides support to states, territories, and tribes to recruit, engage, develop, and support foster and adoptive families.

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