Selfless Love Foundation

Chart - YouthAdult Partnerships

The people closest to the problem may also be closest to the solution, but furthest away from the power.  

We can all agree that youth in foster care should have a voice in decisions that impact their lives, and in the development of policies that affect them. Due to their status in society compared to adults, their level of development, lack of power, and understanding of the system, youth need adult partners to use their voice effectively. 

Research over the years has provided insight into the best models for youth participation. From the linear models of Arnstein’s Ladder of Citizen Participation (1969) and Hart’s Ladder of Children’s Participation (1992) to Wong’s Typology of Youth Participation and Empowerment (TYPE) Pyramid (2010), we know that youth-adult partnerships are a critical component to elevating youth voice.   

Wong’s Pyramid, an empowerment framework, peaks with a pluralistic relationship between youth and adults. This model of shared control in planning and decision-making provides optimal conditions for positive youth development. 

If we as system professionals and supportive adults are willing to let go of power and control, suspend judgment, and build a relationship based on trust and openness, the dance with youth becomes empowering and transformative.  With grace we can debate, discuss, and even disagree with one another. 

The path to improving youth participation in decisions that impact their lives and in policy development is certain. The only question that remains is whether the child welfare system is willing and able to invest the time and resources needed to create a youth well-being system? 


Dr. Elizabeth Wynter is a rainmaker for transition age foster youth. Wynter’s work in this arena has helped launch a statewide youth voice movement, drive policy and practice improvements, and better equip system professionals and foster youth with tools and knowledge to achieve self-sufficiency.    

Wynter believes that foster youth should be valued as organization assets. By using a pluralistic approach in which youth and systems professionals share control in decision making, program planning and implementation, and advocacy, a dual impact of improved outcomes for transitioning youth and a more responsive child welfare system can be realized.

As the Executive Director of the Selfless Love Foundation, Wynter has led the state of Florida in making youth engagement a centerpiece of conversation. With over two decades of child welfare experience, an unwavering commitment to transform the system, and an ineffable capacity to challenge the status quo, Wynter is a catalyst for change.  

Selfless Love Foundation’s youth voice initiative, One Voice IMPACT (OVI), provides current and former foster youth opportunities to develop skills for leadership and life, advocate for changes to policy and join a network of youth leaders across the state of Florida.

This October, Selfless Love Foundation is launching “Foster Youth Voice Month. The national campaign will elevate the voices of youth with lived foster care experience to inform the public and impact child welfare systems across the country. Click here to sign up your agency


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