Youth Engagement in Action: The Young Adult Consultant Program of the Children’s Bureau




Seven young people are grouped together having a conversation at a table. Two are standing and five are seated.

  “There’s nothing more rewarding than being a part of the Young Adult Consultant program where my input is valued and is actually impactful to improving a system that I was once a part of.” – Athena G.  

The Children’s Bureau was the first federal agency in the world to focus 100% of its resources on improving the lives of children and families[i]. You may know them for their work to improve the foster care system, end child labor, and develop effective services to meet the needs of children who have been abused or neglected. But did you know that they also do a great job of engaging young people? Let’s dive into one example: the Young Adult Consultant (YAC) Program.

The Young Adult Consultant Program

The Young Adult Consultant Program is one of the federal government’s most intense youth engagement efforts. Started in 2015, the program engages young adults who have previously been involved in foster care. These young people work to help meet the Children’s Bureau’s mission: improve the lives of children and families through programs that reduce child abuse and neglect, increase the number of adoptions, and strengthen foster care. 


“The Young Adult Consultant program is what gave me the chance to learn how to create systemic change on the job with key stakeholders which is a privilege I thought I’d never have at this point in my life” – David H.


Young adult consultants attend important conferences and summits, develop resources that tackle challenging issues, and help states develop creative solutions to tough problems. Here are a few examples of their work: 

Examples of Work Performed by Young Adult Consultants[ii],[iii]

Conferences and Summits

  • White House Summit on Developmentally Appropriate Services for Youth and Young Adults in Foster Care
  • Kids Are Worth It Conference on the use of Psychotropic Medications and Youth in Foster Care

Resource Development

  • Peer Review: Sex Trafficking Curriculum
  • Webinar: Financial Capability for Youth and Child Welfare [access webinar here]
  • Podcast: Engaging Youth in Foster Care [access podcast here]

Other Activities

  • Advise states on ways to engage youth in developing new policies
  • Youth Advisory Board development

Becoming a Young Adult Consultant

Twenty-five young adults between the ages of 18 and 26 currently participate as trained consultants who are compensated for their contributions. Each consultant spent some portion of their childhood in the foster care system. While their personal experiences inform their understanding of the system, consultants bring many strengths and insights to the work they acomplish.  

Generally, the Children’s Bureau opens applications to the public every year in hopes that every interested young adult has an opportunity to apply. To be selected, interested young adults must submit an application for review. The selection committee reviews each application and chooses a subset of applicants to participate in the interview process. A well-rounded pool of applicants is interviewed based on diversity of their interests, experience, knowledge, and geography. These interviews lead to the selection of the final pool of consultants.


“As a Young Adult Consultant, I've been provided professional development opportunities that are preparing me more and more to be able to hold my own in the child welfare arena. I'm grateful for the opportunities to further develop my confidence in my own lived experience which plays an important for on improving child welfare outcomes and learning how to utilize it in professional ways” – Current YAC


As you might expect, being an effective consultant comes with challenges. Many young people juggle full schedules with diverse leadership opportunities as well as numerous other responsibilities, such as school, work, and family responsibilities. Like you, the best consultants make a difference because they remain committed to being a change maker for others!

Tell us YOUR Story

Are you or other change makers you know making a difference through federal or state programs? If so, we would love to share your story on Youth Engaged 4 Change! Please reach out and tell us your story!

[ii] Source: Heath, C., Vieyra, M., Long, J., Ortiz-Tovar, L., and Stater Davis, F. (2016). Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs: Involving Young Adults in Federal Efforts [PowerPoint Slides]