Youth-Adult Partnership

Why Are We Partnering With Youth?

Young people are the experts of their own experience and so much more. They hold strategic insights and possess skills critical for solving complex problems impacting them, which well-intended adults have historically failed to address effectively.

Partnership with youth and young adults who have experienced foster care will:

  • Improve the effectiveness of our programs
  • Guide and inform our systems change work
  • Create new opportunities for leadership, collaboration and growth
  • Shift toward an organizational culture of accountable, equitable partnership with our young people
  • Create org-wide standards, policies and practices
  • Maintain the credibility of our organization and approach with youth, families, communities, partners, funders and systems leaders
  • Advance our commitment to become an anti-racist organization by unlearning paternalism and other cultural characteristics rooted in white supremacy

This work is inextricably linked with our racial equity work. We must integrate our strategies and practices in both these areas in order to reach our intended impact.

The following values center and guide our Youth-Adult Partnership work.

In order to effectively partner with youth, we focus on three fundamental approaches: employment, co-design methods and participatory research.

We currently center on three initial courses of action to commit to these practices: the Fellowship Program, the Collaborative Learning Lab and Project Education Impact. Each activity makes space for young adults to shape the vision and trajectory of our work at Treehouse.


The Fellowship Program is a pilot program that hires young adults with lived experience in foster care and connects them with staff across Treehouse for network building, professional development, collaboration and consultation. Specifically, the team includes:

  • 8 paid Fellows (18 – 25 years old, currently residing in Washington State)
  • Treehouse’s Youth-Adult Partnership Manager
  • A staff team from departments across Treehouse

We partner through a cohort model that centers lived experience and works on special projects that influence programs and strategic issues across the organization. The Fellows have the opportunity to do something remarkable – spark positive changes throughout Treehouse and for youth experiencing foster care across Washington state.


Co-design is a collaborative process that focuses on designing programs with a community rather than for them. Treehouse practices elements of co-design in much of our Youth-Adult Partnership work, most recently in the Collaborative Learning Lab (CoLLab).

CoLLab is an intentionally constructed community space that includes Treehouse staff and young adults with lived expertise as equal partners. We gather to connect in a space that centers lived experience, practice co-design elements and grow collective understanding about how Youth-Adult Partnership can inform the work at Treehouse and beyond.

Participatory Research

Participatory research prioritizes working with researchers, stakeholders, community members and those with lived experiences to engage in trauma-responsive practices and produce research results that can better serve a community. Treehouse is building capacity to leverage this approach to improve our programs and guide our systems change work.

As part of Project Education Impact (PEI), staff from Treehouse and Building Changes led a subgroup focused on equitable outcomes for students experiencing foster care or homelessness engaged in post-secondary education or training.

The subgroup partnered with universities, community and technical colleges, apprenticeship programs and community-based organizations to facilitate a series of focus groups to better understand the experiences, needs and aspirations of these students and apprentices.

The findings from these focus groups, which were reviewed and validated by a panel of participants and sub-group members, will continue to inform and guide the work of the PEI post-secondary subgroup.

Thought Leaders & Partners

We are part of a larger movement. These are some groups and individuals that inspire and inform our Youth-Adult Partnership at Treehouse.