Creating Conditions That Encourage Youth Engagement in Family Child Welfare Case Planning Meetings: A Youth Perspective

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Children and Youth Services Review

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Youth in foster care are often excluded from participating in planning for their permanent homes and making other decisions about their lives. In the past decade, there has been an increasing call for laws, policies, and practices that ensure a youth’s right to participation in child welfare and other youth-serving systems. Child welfare, which is often associated with trauma, lack of power, and other disadvantages for involved families, is a complicated context for engaging youth in the processes intended to protect them. From the motivational perspective of Self-Determination Theory (SDT), child welfare workers can understand promoting engagement as creating conditions that meet a youth’s basic psychological needs. The current study used SDT as a framework to analyze in-depth interviews with youth about their experiences with family case planning meetings. Findings explain why different family meeting practices promoted or undermined youth engagement by creating certain contextual conditions (warm/caring, structured/predictable, and supportive of genuine preferences). Some family meeting practices functioned differently in promoting youth engagement depending on the extent to which youth experienced their needs being met. SDT offers both a way to understand casework practices in terms of the conditions they create, and a framework for reflecting on why certain practices operate in different ways for different youth. Workers who understand that engagement stems from meeting individual needs will be better able to promote youth participation in family meetings and their well-being.


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