Federal Engagement: White House

The Challenge

Historically, the White House has been entirely disconnected from people with lived experience in child welfare and the context and expertise they can provide. As a result, federal policy designed to better the lives of children and families has lacked understanding of the problems within the system and the needs of those it serves. As the White House sets the priorities for the entire federal government, this lack of proximity has meant young people and their families have faced significant barriers that could have been addressed.

The Action

At the invitation of the Biden-Harris Administration, Think of Us engages with the Office of Public Engagement, the Domestic Policy Council, the Office of Management and Budget, and other relevant White House offices on issues that are directly and indirectly related to child welfare. In this work, we actively integrate the voices of individuals with lived experience in child welfare by sharing data, participatory research, and direct feedback of child welfare stakeholders. Rather than limiting our contribution to the views of our singular organization, TOU creates proximity by inviting individual, organization, and state child welfare players to share issues they face and perspectives on policy. We synthesize this information to provide the Biden-Harris Administration with relevant, actionable insights into the barriers and needs of people impacted by child welfare.

The Stats

  • 60+ child welfare advocates and organizations contribute to TOU talking points
  • Weekly/biweekly meetings with White House 
  • More than 5,200 people participated in National Town Halls in April 2021 and March 2022 
  • TOU data was critical in passing $400 million in pandemic relief for current and former foster youth

The Results

We participate in bi-weekly meetings with the Office of Public Engagement. During the meetings TOU shares updates and information from child welfare stakeholders. 

Our work was featured by CNN, “‘This is way beyond collaborative. I would almost say it's like co-designing...This is not about advocating, but about proximity. We are truly helping people in the White House understand the experiences and getting a pipeline to the right offices,’ said Cancel...who grew up in foster care.” (CEO Sixto Cancel) 

CEO Sixto Cancel has: 

  • Participated in an advocates’ State of the Union response
  • Taken part in a roundtable on youth employment
  • Supported an Instagram Party with the White House OPE and A New Deal for Youth, and
  • Moderated a briefing on the science of adolescence and addressing equity for all youth. 

Our collaborative efforts have resulted in: 

  • Increased pressure for timely appointment of an Associate Commissioner to the Children’s Bureau to ensure smooth rollout of critical initiatives
  • Increased proximity and public accountability for issues brought before the White House
  • Building relationships and connections between the White House and key child welfare stakeholders, including providing critical insights from states and counties on realities of policy implementation

Centering Lived Experience

  • TOU staff working on this project have lived experience in foster care
  • We create proximity for people with lived experience through inviting them to contribute to policy talking points
  • We share our unprecedented data (tens of thousands of respondents) and learnings on the needs of current and former foster youth (Note: shared with individual consent)

Key Stakeholders

Geographic Location

Washington, D.C.

Time Frame


Earned Revenue
Government Contract

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