Why Does Lived Experience Matter?


To kick off National Foster Care Month, we're taking time to celebrate the 10th birthday of the National Foster Care Youth & Alumni Policy Council!

For the last 10 years, the National Foster Care Youth & Alumni Policy Council has been a driving force in integrating lived experience youth voices into conversations in the child welfare field. We are infinitely proud of our current Council members, and all of those who have come before us, who shared their stories while also providing analysis of the stories of others to inform key stakeholders in our field.


We were founded in 2012 at the request of the Administration of Children and Families, who understand that equitable, sustainable policy outcomes happen with the incorporation of lived experience voices. Now, more than 10 years later, we raise the question again–why does lived experience matter


Here’s what current and previous Council members have to say: 


“It matters because policies are most effective when created and implemented with the experiences of former foster youth in mind, so that systems are proactive rather than reactive.”

Aliyah Zeien, current Council member

“Simply put: We know what works, what doesn't work, and what will or will not work. Preparing policy with those currently or formerly living the life that policy impacts is the only way to do good by the communities impacted by policies.”

Kristianna Moore, current Council member

“Having the opportunity to expose the system to our own traumas is the best way I can frame it... It's one thing just to open our mouths and tell our story. But it's another thing to see action that goes behind the stories that are told” 

Victor Sims, former Council member

“I think it’s really important that moving forward for true reform, before we even talk about the different policies, we would recommend that we look at the structure of a lot of agencies. We look at, nationally, who are the decision-makers, who are the stakeholders that we are constantly putting in those positions? And why hasn't there been more of those with lived experience or expertise at those positions at a high level so that they can truly bring in a diverse representation of what the system looks like?”  

Latasha Pearson, former Council member 

“We need to know if the policies being implemented actually serve the audience its meant for. Incorporating lived experience voices in our work can support us in working towards a better and equitable future.”

Daysha Reed, current Council member

“[Lived experience] keeps the work grounded in current needs and with fresh perspectives”

Tina Harris, current Council member


Want to hear more? Click the links below to listen to Child Welfare Information Gateway’s podcast about lived experience and the Council.

This is Part 1 of a 2 part series. Check out Part 2 on what it's like being on a 10 year old Council!

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