Youth engagement is about empowering young people as valuable partners in child and youth mental health to address and make decisions that affect them personally or that they believe to be important. Engaging young people has been a priority for us from the beginning. Over the years, we have co-developed dozens of resources with young people. They're also integrated as important partners on all our key projects and initiatives, through our youth advisory council.

Why youth engagement matters

Evidence shows that when young people have a voice and active role in treatment and service planning, access to mental health services is enhanced, agencies are able to be more responsive to community needs, community development is bolstered and young people are encouraged to be more civic-minded. A central goal of youth engagement is positive youth development. Through engagement, young people experience positive changes, develop better critical thinking skills, teamwork and leadership skills.

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.

Youth 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 youth engagement? 

Over the past few years, more and more agencies have been working on youth 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 nine quality statements that make up the quality standard for youth engagement

Implementing the quality standard for youth engagement

In 2018 we began developing a quality standard for youth 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 youth engagement within your organization or community. Get in touch today to get connected with one of our experienced engagement specialists!

Quality standard for youth engagement

The quality standard for youth engagement describes the nine 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 youth, agencies and decision makers.

Resources to support implementation

Implementing the quality standard for youth engagement means more young people 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.

What’s in it for me?!

This resource was co-developed by young people for their peers to better understand the quality standard for youth engagement. It unpacks what the principles that make up the standard mean for young people, and how they work together to inform high-quality, meaningful youth engagement.

Measurement surveys

Our measurement surveys look at key indicators for all the quality statements (principles) that make up the quality standard for youth engagement. These surveys can be administered to youth, 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.

Youth engagement traffic light

This resource is a visual aide to help understand the continuum of youth engagement (from negative, disengaging activities to the highest forms of engagement) and guide conversations between adults and young people who are planning for organizational, community and system-level youth engagement.

Developing core and implementation teams

Based on implementation science, this resource identifies and 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 youth 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 youth engagement.

Supporting provincial youth engagement efforts

With the energy and expertise of our in-house youth advisors and other staff, we have engaged hundreds of young people across the province. We've also worked with many organizations to build their capacity to practice meaningful youth engagement at the individual, organizational and system levels.

Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario Integrated Youth Services

Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario (YWHO) Integrated Youth Services is a network of one-stop shops where young people ages 12 to 25 can access the mental health and addictions services they need, when they need it. Youth engagement is an essential part of YWHO's co-developed and youth-driven model. This work is led by the Margaret and Wallace McCain Centre for Child, Youth and Family Health and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)'s Provincial System Support Program (PSSP). We support meaningful youth engagement at their 10 local hub sites around Ontario, as well as at the provincial level.

The New Mentality

The New Mentality is a provincial network of youth and allies working to amplify youth voice to influence change within the mental health system. We helped establish the New Mentality in 2007 and have worked frequently with the network since then to promote and enhance youth engagement across the province.

Walking the talk: A toolkit for engaging youth in mental health

Our online youth engagement toolkit will give you a better understanding of how youth engagement can directly benefit youth, service areas and communities in Ontario's child and youth mental health sector. We've designed it to highlight the benefits, help you implement youth engagement initiatives in your agency and showcase the many youth engagement success stories from across the province.