Expert Interviews: People with Lived Expertise

Fifteen people who had have had experience living in the child welfare system were interviewed to determine if and how they were involved in permanency planning. The group included adopted persons, persons who aged out of the system, and those who achieved guardianship as well as reunification.  Interview participants were also asked to offer suggestions to enhance engagement of children and youth in this system.

Three key highlights from the interviews include how permanency is defined, the importance of engagement, and the need for more preparation and information.


While reading the report, it is important to reflect on how the participants define permanency. It is key to note that true children and youth engagement in permanency planning requires child welfare professionals to first start with that very basic question: how do you see permanency in your life? For the purpose of this research, the individuals interviewed defined permanency as lifelong family relationships characterized by love, acceptance and security.


Throughout the interviews, people with lived expertise emphasized the importance of building trusting relationships. Engaging effectively with youth requires workers to have skills and training in the area of engagement and rapport building.

Preparation and Information

Those interviewed reflected that it is critical for professionals to explain the permanency options available and also inform them of the consequences of various options. This teamwork model is essential in ensuring young people feel as though they are  respected and participating members of planning for their own future.

The interviews with people with lived expertise offer recommendations for casework areas of improvements as well as structural issues within the child welfare system that may prove more difficult to change. Both areas likely will need to be addressed to ensure the child welfare system is genuinely embracing a service model that prioritizes engagement with children and youth at every level. This will include training modules that support front line workers in developing the skills, but also ensuring that they have the time and commitment to do this work in a way that leads to successful permanency outcomes for children and youth.

Related Expert Interviews

All of the expert interviews within QIC-EY’s Environmental Scan help to uncover current efforts by an array of diverse child welfare professionals to authentically engage children and youth in permanency planning as well as to identify any barriers that might get in the way. Each report helps to put a sharper focus on the importance of engagement as well as the challenges and opportunities facing professionals today. Reading through these reports as individuals or as a team can help to validate what might be happening for professionals and offer inspiration for how the work of engagement can continue to improve over time.

Qualitative Analysis of Tribal Child Welfare Expert Interviews
Qualitative Analysis of Legal Expert Interviews
Qualitative Analysis of Workforce Expert Interviews

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