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The Office of Family Voice (OFV) was created in 2019 as the first of its kind among public child welfare agencies nationwide.

OFV uses innovative approaches to organize and elevate the voice of constituents, ensuring that policy, operations and practice throughout the Department of Children and Families are infused with the voices of individuals with lived experience.

Family Voice is one of four Core Approaches outlined in the department’s Strategic Plan, and is a practice embedded in every aspect of the department’s work.


New Jersey Youth Council

The first Youth Council cohort, comprised of 24 members ages 14-23, convened in January of 2020.

The Youth Council works collaboratively with DCF staff to achieve shared leadership. The Youth Council’s Goals are to:

  1. Elevate the voices of youth and alumni directly impacted by DCF services and their communities
  2. Work collaboratively with DCF Leadership to identify key issues and priorities in DCF’s policies and practices
  3. Work collaboratively to develop recommendations that help to transform DCF policy and practice
  4. Train and educate resource parents, DCF staff and leadership, caseworkers, providers, judges, law guardians and other child welfare professionals on issues important to DCF youth and alumni
  5. Provide input to assist in developing implementation plans for newly enacted laws (e.g. Family First)
  6. Develop mechanisms to support youth voice in case planning
  7. Empower youth by providing resources and knowledge that enable them to take action, influence and make decisions on critical issues

Members of the Youth Council serve in staggered two-year terms, with new appointments made annually. Young people between the ages of 14-23, who want to create change, and who are currently, or have been, involved with the Division of Child Protection & Permanency (DCP&P), the Children’s System of Care (CSOC), and/or the Office of Education (DCF Regional Schools) are eligible to apply.

 

Fatherhood Engagement Committee 

The Office of Family Voice also leads the Department’s Fatherhood Engagement Committee (FEC). The goal of the FEC is to create a culture that encourages the participation and involvement of fathers. The FEC includes staff from DCF and sister state agencies, community stakeholders and system partners as well as fathers with lived experiences from across the state.  The fathers’ challenges, history and experience are the basis for FEC’s recommendations to the Commissioner.  

Within the Fatherhood Engagement Committee sits a subcommittee of fathers with lived experience. 


Fathers with Lived Experience Subcommittee

The Fathers with Lived Experience Subcommittee works to transform DCF policy and practice and, at the same time, empower fathers to make decisions on critical issues. 

The Fathers with Lived Experience Subcommittee was formed in August 2019 and is comprised of fathers from different parts of the state. Fathers collaborate directly with the DCF Fatherhood Engagement Committee.  

Fathers with lived experience reinforce DCF’s commitment to authentic engagement and shared decision making.

To apply to participate in the subcommittee, fathers must be 18 years of age or older, a New Jersey resident, and must have been, or be, a birth parent, legal guardian, or a father figure, during the family’s involvement with the Division of Child Protection & Permanency.

Members of the DCF Fatherhood Engagement Committee do not serve specific terms, but engage on an ongoing basis, depending on their schedules and availability.  The Fathers with Lived Experience Subcommittee meetings are held virtually on the first Thursday of each month.

 

 



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