There is a growing recognition of the importance of incorporating the voices of people who have experience with government systems into services, but, as Foster America’s Senior Project Manager Takkeem Morgan reminds, “all work is not good work when it comes to serving vulnerable populations.”
Takkeem recently had a conversation on his podcast around the inclusion of lived experts with with senior fellow Sonya Soni and alumna and board member Jermeen Sherman about their article in the Child Welfare League Journal entitled “Beyond Human-centered Design: The Promise of Antiracist Community-centered Approaches in Child Welfare Program and Policy Design.”
Takkeem, Sonya, and Jermeen explore the ways in which surface-level attempts to include lived experts in policy decisions are often tokenizing and alienating for people with systems experience, and don’t create meaningful change at the community level in the long run.
The group discussed meaningful ways that the child welfare system, a historically paternalistic and punitive system, can shift to share power with the people receiving services, which will ultimately create policy outcomes that create success, as they are designed by and for the communities themselves.
The conversation is the latest episode of Takkeem’s Mosaic Foster Parents Cafe, a podcast Takkeem started as a supportive resource for foster families after finishing his fellowship with Foster America in April 2021.
Jermeen, Sonya and Takkeem all work in various ways to include lived experts into policy decisions across the country, and solutions discussed in this podcast could be scaled and adapted in a number of different ways for organizations that serve children and families.
In addition to his podcast, Takkeem works as the senior project manager for the national Thriving Families, Safer Children initiative, which centers lived expertise and local community solutions as a way to shift the child welfare system to one of child and family wellbeing in multiple pilot sites across the country.
Sonya is wrapping up her senior fellowship with Los Angeles County, where she co-leads the Los Angeles County Youth Commission, the first youth-led governing body under the LA County Board of Supervisors with formal power in the County.
Jermeen recently founded Community Up, a social impact consultancy that leverages her community-focused work in Los Angeles and across the country to design better social service programs.
Click here to listen to the podcast episode.