Thirty years serving children and youth here in Florida has taught me much about the systemic prioritization that was designed to provide safety, well-being and permanency, all of which is evaluated by the broad metrics that haven’t necessarily reflected value in the voice of our youth.

In fact, through my journey, which started as an in-home counselor three decades ago, I was immediately drawn to the engagement of these youth. I believed then, and exponentially more so now, that they would educate me more than textbooks, supervisors, and institutionally knowledgeable professionals. They inspired me, enlightened me and humbled me, as they shared profound perspectives of their own journey traveling through a complex, overwhelming and complicated system. As a clinician, all I ever wanted to do was help individuals feel a grounded sense of self, whole, connected and valued. What I realized was how traumatic the journey truly was for so many of them … and that was after the trauma that brought them into the formal child welfare system.

Today, my organization and I are committed to perpetuating a new journey, one that values youth voice, expectations, thoughts, hopes and dreams in a trauma responsive fashion that helps them feel more like a part of the family than a “product of the system.”

We are driven to incorporate our youth’s voice in everything we do with them, for them and because of them. In Brevard County, we have a thriving council that engages our community of stakeholders while uniting other youth to become catalysts for change, paving a more defined path towards self-worth, hope and opportunity regardless of their permanency outcome. Because of our Youth’s prophetic voices, more folks in our industry are stopping to listen and willing to do things differently and most importantly, engaging our youth in problem-solving from a strength-based approach where we are simply stronger together. Sign the Youth Voice Pledge today!

By Phil Scarpelli, CEO of Brevard Family Partnership