AdoptUSKids hosted a webinar, “Peer Support Matters: Strategies to Incorporate and Elevate Those With Lived Experience in Your Support of Foster, Adoptive, and Kinship Families,” that provides strategies for agencies to intentionally include those with lived experience into their support programs. The webinar—which was facilitated by Nathan Ross, a family support project specialist at AdoptUSKids, and Britt Cloudsdale, a family support program manager at AdoptUSKids—suggests that agencies must engage individuals with lived experience to advance user-centered support programs and improve agency services and culture. It also provides key considerations to inform their engagement.
The webinar addresses common barriers to elevating those with lived experience, including professional bias, lack of sufficient development or support, and lack of compensation. It is critical for organizations to assess their readiness and build their staff’s capacity to support the individuals with lived experience that they engage with. To eliminate any potential harm, the presenters advise agencies to think about how to best empower those with lived experience. Individuals may need education and support to process trauma and feelings of grief and loss related to their experience prior to, during, and after child welfare involvement. To better empower staff to work with those with lived experiences, agencies can provide training on effectively facilitating groups, writing case notes, strategically sharing experiences, navigating traumas and triggers, balancing work and personal life, and practicing self-care.
The presenters recognize and define the difference between youth who have lived experience (involuntary participants) and caregivers with lived experience (voluntary participants) and how agencies should be aware of how these differences affect how agencies provide support.
Other topics and strategies in the webinar include the following:
- Traits of effective peer support providers
- Compensation of those with lived experience
- Youth Engagement Ladder
- Power dynamics
- How to create safer environments for those with lived experience to show up authentically