Launching Soon

The Center for Lived Experience

The heartbeat of Think of Us is to center the Lived Experience of those who are closest to the foster care system – current and former foster youth, biological parents, caregivers, foster parents, and frontline workers – into every stage of decision-making in child welfare. Foster care policy, regulation, and implementation to date have a critical structural breakdown – policy and practice are distanced from the people who actually experience them.

What if we shifted the power dynamic? We envision a world in which the foster youth searching for housing, the young parent striving not to repeat the cycle, and the kinship caregiver supporting their loved one all have meaningful access to and decision-making power over the policies and initiatives that support them in meeting their basic needs. Our experience demonstrates that individuals with Lived Experience are a dynamic group, eager to play a role in reimagining the child welfare system.  

The Center for Lived Experience
will be a first-of-its-kind research and development hub that captures insights, data, and experiences from those who have experienced foster care and models the integration of these findings into child welfare initiatives. This will include groundbreaking participatory research, robust qualitative and quantitative data sets, proximate policy making, an ever-growing virtual community of people who have experienced foster care, and more. Through thought leadership and dissemination of lessons learned, the CLE will shape how the child welfare and the broader social sector center lived experience. 

What does that look like? Currently in the strategic planning phase, the CLE will be built upon three pillars:  

Community Building & Organizing
- Building and nurturing a diverse community of individuals who have been impacted by child welfare to mobilize and activate in critical child welfare movements, while facilitating a meaningful space for connection. 

Participatory Research & Data - Designing and leading participatory research and data collection projects to inform critical movements in child welfare, using an approach drawing from research justice frameworks that minimize extractive practices, center healing, and shift power to lived experts.  

Proximate Policy - Actively integrating the voices of individuals with lived experience at the state and federal levels by sharing data, participatory research findings, and direct feedback with the White House, Children’s Bureau, and Congress so that policy is better designed and implemented to serve youth and families impacted by child welfare.    

Our goal is to revolutionize best practice to create a child welfare system where every element is informed and driven by Lived Experience.

You can be a part of making the Center for Lived Experience a reality.