Hey y’all! This is Diamond Whitley, the Youth Engagement Specialist from One Voice IMPAACT (follow us on Facebook and Instagram at @onevoiceimpaact, please). About a year ago, I was asked to join the Florida Performance Improvement Prototype (PIP) workgroup. This workgroup was designed to find the root causes to some of issues in the Florida Child Welfare System. I was surrounded by system professionals with over 20 years of experience. This caused me to be extremely insecure in my role on the workgroup. Then, my supervisor set up a meeting with a facilitator of the group. This was the moment I realized that I was an organizational asset. My experience was the reason I was here. My experience is my expertise. From there, you couldn’t shut my mouth! There was so much validation for my experiences. I honestly felt as though I was put in one of the highest regards.
After the workgroup ended, I was called upon again to talk about youth voice in the child welfare court system. I was trusted to use my experience again, only this time it was on a federal level. The main takeaway is that this is a common sentiment among system professionals. They want to hear from youth. They love to hear from youth. If we can make a system that has youth readily willing and able to share their experiences, we can make youth voice a requirement, not an option. We are the only ones who can change the way youth are perceived. We are and always will be organizational assets.
Diamond Whitley is the Youth Engagement Specialist for One Voice IMPAACT. When she’s not working, she’s a full-time student at UCF. She’s majoring in psychology to enter a career in therapy and has dreams for days!