Family engagement is an ongoing process that includes families as active decision makers and equal partners in 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. Families are integrated as important partners on all our key projects and initiatives, through our family advisory council.

Why family engagement matters

Evidence suggests that when families have a voice and active role in treatment and service planning at the system level, agencies and communities are able to be more responsive to the needs of children, young people and families. Embedding family voice into system initiatives not only increases community awareness and helps reduce stigma around child and youth mental health, engagement also improves infrastructure and services, all of which makes the system itself more sustainable.

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.

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.

Wheel of icons representing the eight quality statements that make up the quality standard for family engagementImplementing the quality standard for family engagement

In 2018 we began developing a quality standard for family engagement in partnership with young people, families, clinicians and researchers from all over Ontario. In 2019 we piloted our coaching program in several communities and now, we’re ready to support other organizations and communities through their implementation journey, from helping to interpret your measurement survey results to action planning for family engagement within your organization or community. Get in touch today to get connected with one of our experienced engagement specialists!

Quality standard for family engagement

The quality standard for family engagement describes the eight quality statements (principles) that make up the quality standard. This includes detailing background, rationale and best practices for each statement, as well as and defining what each one means for families, agencies and decision makers.

Resources to support implementation

Implementing the quality standard for family engagement means more families are engaged in a more meaningful way, informing services and leading to better service experiences and outcomes. So, of course, we want to support implementation in any way we can! Please explore the resources below, and get in touch with our engagement team if you have specific questions.


Measurement surveys

Our measurement surveys look at key indicators for all the quality statements (principles) that make up the quality standard for family engagement. These surveys can be administered to families, staff and other partners at the organizational, community or system level. This provides a 360-degree snapshot, allowing users to determine a benchmark and check their progress over time. Please email our engagement team for more information.

Developing core and implementation teams

Based on implementation science, this resource describes the purpose and structure of core teams and implementation teams. It was developed to support stakeholders, organizations, communities and systems in their initial efforts to implement the quality standard for family engagement.

Introductory webinar recording

This pre-recorded webinar is geared toward organizations and communities interested in implementing the quality standard for family engagement. It is intended to provide an orientation to the quality standard, including defining key terminology, introducing the quality statements (principles) and describing the implementation process. 

 Action planning templates

Action planning agenda template

This agenda template provides a sample plan and activities to support the core team to create an action plan. An action planning meeting could be a full-day meeting, or could be accomplished through several shorter meetings, as needed.

Project-based action plan template

Use the project-based action plan template to help identify how organizational milestones can be mapped onto corresponding quality statements to show how a project aligns with the quality standard for youth or family engagement — and how alignment can be enhanced. For help getting started, refer to the example project-based action plan.

Principles-based action plan template

Use the principles-based action plan template to help structure planning for activities drawing upon the best practices and quality statements (principles) of the quality standard for family engagement.