Our exciting journey began in 2012 when HFFF received a Trillium Grant to create a supportive place for families to connect with other families experiencing similar mental health challenges. Our focus is to help families feel supported in their community, involve them in meaningful ways, and work toward a Family Engagement Plan for Halton. Throughout our journey we have learned that we are an enthusiastic, passionate and committed group of families, caregivers, educators, and mental health care professionals, interested in making a difference in the lives of children and youth with mental illness in Halton Region. We’ve also learned that we need to better the lives of families who are dealing with their child and youth’s mental health issue and develop a Plan to ensure that engagement becomes a meaningful and sustained part of the mental health process.
HFFF retained a Coordinator in early 2013 to help us develop the structure we need to move forward in gathering data that will enable us to better understand family needs and staff readiness for family engagement. This data will help build relationships with families and service providers.
The Coordinator established a Family Advisory Committee to provide insights and guidance from families’ perspectives and a Steering Committee to receive advice and guidance from service agencies and family representatives.
The data gathering included research, brainstorming sessions, story sharing and surveys. Through this process we engaged over 300 families. We discovered new insights into what we need to do over the next 3 years – to build stronger more connected and meaningful relationships (with each other, mental health care professionals, educators, government and the broader community), to better meet the needs of our children and youth.
The Coordinator also started the process of building relationships with families and providing opportunities for families, children and youth to network and socialize, identifying ways in which they can support each other.
The information and data collected from families was recorded and shared with the Family Advisory Committee, the Steering Committee and participating families. This record of family voices is the foundation for the development of the Family Engagement Plan.
In July 2014, members of the Family Advisory Committee, Steering Committee and Children’s Mental Health Developmental Services Committee (CMHDS) were invited to participate in the development of the Family Engagement Plan. We started by developing a shared Vision, Goals that would support the Vision, and a 3-Year Action Plan to make it happen. All of this was done by bringing together families, caregivers, mental health care professionals and educators to have these important conversations through two (2) interactive, facilitated workshop experiences.
The rest…as they say is “history in the making”.