Family engagement is an ongoing process that includes families as active decision makers and equal partners in treatment and service delivery at individual, organizational and system levels. For more than a decade, we have partnered with Parents for Children's Mental Health (PCMH) to co-develop and implement a model, along with resources and training, to increase our sector's capacity to practice meaningful family engagement.

Why family engagement matters

The evidence is clear: when families have a voice and an active role in treatment planning and service delivery, their child or youth experiences better outcomes and greater satisfaction with care, and services are more cost-effective. When they're meaningfully engaged, families also experience less stress, have improved family interactions and feel more confident in their ability to support their child or youth to manage mental health challenges.

What do we mean by “system-level engagement”?

Ontario's child and youth mental health care system is made up of the many providers and organizations from different sectors, all delivering mental health services to children and youth. The system includes the networks and care pathways that connect them. It also includes the governments and other institutions that provide resources.

A care pathway helps guide children, youth and families to, through and out of care. It ensures that families get the right service at the right time and in the right way to best meet their child's or youth's mental health needs. In a high-quality mental health system, care pathways are accessible, efficient and effective. They reflect coordination between multiple providers and create better continuity of care.

Families are key stakeholders within this system. Family engagement at the system level is focused on improvements that affect these networks, pathways and resources, in addition to improvements within individual organizations.

family engagement quality standard seal

Setting the standard for family engagement

Pursuing excellence demands that we define it. In 2018 we began developing a provincial quality standard for family engagement in partnership with youth, families (including PCMH), clinicians and researchers from all over Ontario. Now that we have a draft standard, we're developing coaching and implementation resources to support organizations who want to put the standard into action.

What is a quality standard?

A quality standard consists of several quality statements, or principles, that describe what the evidence says “high quality” looks like. It includes best practices and indicators to show progress and the impact of implementing those practices. Quality standards are a complement to accreditation standards and clinical practice guidelines from professional bodies. 

Why do we need a quality standard on family engagement?

Over the past few years, more and more agencies have been working on family engagement, but there isn't a shared understanding or a consistent set of practices to reflect what this looks like, especially at the system level. A quality standard is essential to a system that is accountable and constantly improving. It's also crucial to ensuring that Ontario children, youth and families receive high-quality mental health services wherever they are within the province.

Want to start engaging families or improve engagement?

Take a look at the quality standard for family engagement and the family engagement resources that go along with it. Check out our family engagement resource guide for many other valuable tools and resources.

Get in touch with a family engagement specialist to learn more.