Local Impact

Family Engagement
In February 2017, the Centre partnered with Parents for Children’s Mental Health to release an evidence-informed framework (FE Roadmap) for family engagement and deployed a team of family engagement specialists across the province to provide expert support to agencies.
In 2016-17, the Centre provided tailored family engagement supports within 15 Ontario communities: Five individual agencies and 10 service areas.
The degree to which lead agencies agreed that Centre supports increased their capacity to engage families and helped them reach their family engagement goals.
The Centre in partnership with Parent’s for Children’s Mental Health have been invaluable in helping us on our journey to become fully family engaged. The comprehensive training for all of our staff has been excellent, and the many resources – including toolkits, research and presentations – have been outstanding. The in-person, video and phone support has been very supportive!
- Lead agency
The power of partnership: Content meets context in Huron-Perth

Terri Sparling is the executive director at the Huron-Perth Centre and Angela Sider is a family engagement specialist supported by a partnership between the Centre and Parent’s for Children’s Mental Health. They are working together to enhance meaningful family engagement in Huron-Perth. We asked them what they’ve learned through this work, and here’s what they said, in their own words.

Q:Family engagement from two perspectives

The work began by investigating the possibilities for family engagement in Huron-Perth. The challenges have been scheduling, weather, and the level of interest from families. We have persisted with telephone interviews, focus groups and a survey. What started as a small FE effort within our organization has morphed into a strategy for our service area, a key action item that has been identified in our two plans for Moving on Mental Health! he Centre has helped us turn a nice-to-do into a must-do.


Together, we have taken on the task of hearing how families like to be engaged with Huron-Perth. First, we had to figure out how to best access families within the community. Weather, time of year, distance and connection to the agency were all real factors that needed to be considered. We started with focus groups, soon learning this was not the most effective way to engage families. Next, we launched a survey and conducted key informant interviews. This allowed us to meet families where they were at, as well as gather the input and feedback we were looking for.

Q:The power of partnership

One of the humbling things I’ve learned early on is how I approach something can be different than what might be experienced as useful or helpful from the parent perspective. Angela’s feedback has been so helpful, forcing me to think about what would be possible if parents had more of a voice. I have practiced social work for 35 years and have presumed that my skills and experience enabled me to know what would be helpful. That is a presumption that we need to challenge. It also reinforces my appreciation for something I have known for a while – that my intent may be honorable, but I cannot control for how it will be experienced.


My relationship with Terri has grown since our initial meeting. Personally, I have gained a better understanding of the uniqueness of both agency operations and families in rural communities. Terri has helped me consider factors that are relevant and unique to the Huron-Perth community. These lessons have directly shaped how we engage families. Terri has been a pleasure to work with and has a heart for children, youth and families within her community.

Q:Improving the quality and accessibility of services

Achieving optimum service delivery is a moving target, and trying to achieve the “ideal” system is a far stretch. I am excited about what we will learn from conducting a survey that is directly linked to our service system. I trust that the feedback we get will give us a baseline of how parents view the local child and youth mental health system and will help us focus our improvement efforts. We also hope this process will validate an ongoing way for parents to provide their voice.


Our work together will improve the child and youth mental health system within the Huron-Perth community in many ways. As we engage families in dialogue about their experiences, there will be a natural rise in awareness of the services and linkages within the community. Hearing from families about their desired engagement methods, will provide relevant information for necessary changes to services and ultimately enhance services within the broader community.

Q:The future of family engagement in your community

We are eager to launch the survey with membership from our community planning mechanism. Part of the survey will invite parents to help us shape where family engagement goes and that is exciting to say the least. What started as a simple little pilot project with seed support from the Centre has the promise to grow great things.


Family engagement within the Huron-Perth community will continue to grow. Soon, we will have finished key informant interviews and gathered the survey feedback, which will help provide the agency and community with some possible next steps. Terri and the Huron-Perth Centre staff are committed to moving family engagement forward and we’ll continue to work as a team to make this happen. This is only the beginning of a partnership that will help families improve their services for the better.

The beginning of something great:
Embedding family engagement at Keystone Child, Youth and Family Services
In Bruce-Grey County, Keystone Child, Youth and Family Services has always valued family engagement in the treatment process. It’s been a core value of their organization since the beginning, so expanding the influence of families on the way services are designed and delivered seemed like a natural extension of what they were already doing well.

“We thought we were reasonably good at engaging families, and so we have been notably humbled by this experience,” says director of services, Cathy Clarke. “It’s extraordinary. And, we have a long way to go.”

“All the advice, help and cheering has been a great help to us,” says Clarke. “To have a formalized support system outside of the organization is valuable and important. We can create something really great when we do it together,” says Clarke.

Keystone has been working with the Centre and our partners at Parents for Children’s Mental Health to expand the scope of their family engagement practice and shift their culture towards meaningful engagement is every aspect of their operation. With the practical support of their dedicated family engagement specialist, they have built a solid foundation of knowledge through training for all staff, identified two family engagement leads on their team and established a family advice network for ongoing input and guidance.

“The families feel so much more connected to the organization,” says Clarke. “They are suggesting things we never would have come up with.”

[...] shift their culture towards meaningful engagement is every aspect of their operation.
The families feel so much more connected to the organization [...]