Learning from Lived Experiences: Nothing About Us Without Us

By Vicki Spriggs, Texas CASA CEO

Last month, we gathered in Denton for the 2022 Texas CASA Conference. It was a truly special event—it was our first time back in action gathering as a statewide CASA community since 2019. It was wonderful to be back around hundreds of CASA community members, sharing ideas and inspiration.

The theme of our conference was Learning from Lived Experiences: Nothing About Us Without Us. As you may know, that phrase, “Nothing about us without us,” gained popularity as the mantra for the disabilities rights movement. It’s since spread to drive home the wider concept that policies and system changes should not be decided without the full representation and leadership of those impacted by the systems themselves.

In our case, we interpret the phrase to mean that it is essential that the youth and families directly impacted by the child welfare system are at the table when decisions are made, and when we are imagining what a better system can look like.

We featured many incredible speakers with lived experience in foster care, including young leaders like Sixto Cancel, Founder and CEO of Think of Us; and Cortney Jones, Founder and Executive Director of Change 1. Whether you were able to join us in Denton or not, you can hear from many of them in this month’s episode of our short video series, The Fix! For this special edition filmed at the conference, we sat down with Sixto, Cortney, Brooke Shewmake, Ronika Allen, Slam Anderson and Renellquiana Blackburn to talk about how we can work for positive change for youth and families in the system.

Who could understand what’s working—and what’s not working—better than those who experienced it firsthand?

In this edition of The CASA Voice, we also spotlight a highly time-sensitive opportunity for older and aged-out youth and young adults: DFPS just announced they have funds available to help with purchasing a car—but the funds are only available through the end of this month. Please help spread the word and encourage young people aged 17-20 who need a car, and can afford car insurance, to apply ASAP!

Thank you for all that you do for the children and families you serve. By centering the voices of those who have experienced the child welfare system and overlapping systems, we can learn directly from them about what they need to heal and thrive, and ensure a brighter, safer future.