Session: Participatory Action Research in Child Welfare: Upending Reform with Youths' Lived System Experience (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

147 Participatory Action Research in Child Welfare: Upending Reform with Youths' Lived System Experience

Friday, January 14, 2022: 3:45 PM-5:15 PM
Liberty Ballroom P, ML4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
Cluster: Adolescent and Youth Development
Scout Hartley, MPA, Rutgers University-Newark, Kimberly Osborn, MSW, Oklahoma State University, Claudette Grinnell-Davis, PhD, University of Oklahoma and Bailey Stevens, BA, University of Oklahoma
Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) partners academic researchers with individuals from target research populations in a data collection process while exploring problems participants are interested in themselves. YPAR focuses on increasing youth skills and strengths, addressing youths' advocacy goals, and furthering knowledge about the target population in academic literature. YPAR has informed education, LGBTQ+ youth experience, and racial and health equity research, but very few researchers have utilized this approach in foster care, particularly with transition aged foster youth or young adults with lived foster care experience.

Participant voice is supposed to be a part of service planning for youths with lived experience in foster care as a provision of Chafee Independent Living statute. However, youths who participate on such boards frequently feel that their voice is used either to rubber-stamp previously made decisions, or that their story is used to leverage resources for programs and organizations with little regard for personal consequence for the youths.

Our research group, Fostering Learning Through Youth - University Partnerships (FLY-UP), addresses gaps in both academic literature and advocacy spaces by intentionally inserting foster youth and alumni expertise into child welfare research, especially domains dominated by academic experts, at every stage of the process. FLY-UP includes foster care alumni across the United States with lived experience, who in many instances advocate at the state and national level. Our goal for FLY-UP is to demonstrate how YPAR can be utilized in child welfare research to include transition aged young adults in and from the foster care system in meaningful ways, thus embedding youths' lived expertise in the literature and subsequently, better informing child welfare policy and practice. Rather than a single research project, we present YPAR as a research paradigm and research-centered lived experience-led coalition that develops, enhances and informs projects over a variety of topics, all of which are related to child welfare reform or to the socio-emotional development of youths and young adults with care experience.

This roundtable discussion will include a history of the formation of FLY-UP, including our coalition building and fact-finding process. We will discuss the overall logic model, and our short-term and long-term goals. As a part of discussing the strengths and challenges to our process, we will invite attendees to engage with their own questions about the process and engage in an in-depth discussion about the difference between youth voice in research and youths a co-collaborators and co-conspirators in research processes. Finally, we will discuss how we have applied this process as we launched our first research project, researching young adults who have both lived and professional experience with the child welfare system, to interrogate the proposal of the upEND movement to abolish the current child welfare system in the United States.

This session will be facilitated by research partners who are youths with lived foster care experience during the transition period (ages 14-18) and have worked in some way with or in the child welfare system.

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