Federal Engagement: U.S. Congress

Working with Congress to target issues that impact child welfare, youth, and families.

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Who

U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate 

Why

To secure the resources and support youth and families need to heal, develop, and thrive. 

Conditions of Systems Change

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Policy
Resource Flows
Power Dynamics
Practices
Relationships + Connections
Mental Models

The Challenge

Members of Congress, who write the laws governing the child welfare system and control the more than $14 billion in federal funding that is spent on child welfare each year, are not sufficiently connected with people with lived experience in the system. As a result, federal policy designed to better the lives of children and families is often shaped by narrow perspectives and anecdotes, leading to significant unintended consequences for those who interact with the system.

The Action

Think of Us engages with Members of Congress and their staff on issues that are directly and indirectly related to child welfare. In this work, we actively integrate the voices of individuals with lived experience in child welfare by sharing data, participatory research, and direct feedback of child welfare stakeholders. Think of Us works to bridge the gap between the child welfare system and policymakers by sharing regional and geographic data and amplifying the voices of lived experience to help shape policy reform. Rather than limiting our contribution to the views of our singular organization, TOU creates proximity by inviting individual, organization, and state child welfare players to share issues they face and perspectives on policy. We synthesize this information to provide members of Congress and congressional staff with relevant, actionable insights into the barriers and needs of people impacted by child welfare.

The Stats

  • TOU data was critical in passing $400 million in pandemic relief for current and former foster youth
  • $14 billion in federal funding is spent on child welfare each year

The Results

Our collaborative efforts have resulted in: 

  • Increased proximity and public accountability for issues brought before Congress
  • Building relationships and connections between Congress and key child welfare stakeholders, including providing critical insights from states and counties on realities of policy implementation
  • Together with child welfare advocates, we worked with Congress to pass $400 million in pandemic relief for current and former foster youth
  • Provided quantitative data to committees of jurisdiction to help inform and move policy decisions.

Centering Lived Experience

  • TOU staff working on this project have lived experience in foster care
  • We create proximity for people with lived experience through inviting them to contribute to policy talking points.
  • We offer unprecedented quantitative and qualitative data (tens of thousands of respondents) and learnings on the self-reported needs of current and former foster youth (Note: data shared with individual consent).

Geographic Location

Nationwide

Time Frame

Ongoing

Budget

Philanthropic
Earned Revenue
Government Contract

Approach

Strategic
Opportunistic

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