Moving Beyond the Family Engagement Check Box: An Innovative Partnership to Promote Authentic Family Engagement in Systems Change

Child- and family-serving organizations, state agencies, policy foundations, and even funders understand the value of engaging the individuals and families they serve in developing or improving the policies, practices, and other systems-level initiatives that govern the services children and families receive. Yet, they often struggle with the logistics of how to identify opportunities for engaging families, how to reach families, and how to best support them to ensure their full participation. Our latest product, Moving Beyond the Family Engagement Check Box: An Innovative Partnership to Promote Authentic Family Engagement in Systems Change, by CSSP and Family Voices provides valuable insight about best practices for engaging families as well as how to create and implement a process for engaging families in the national Pediatrics Supporting Parents (PSP) initiative to promote the social and emotional development (SED) of young children.

Collaborations with family-led organizations, such as Family Voices, are an effective way to build the capacity of policymaking organizations, state agencies, and other systems of care to support meaningful family engagement that can ensure that policies, practices, and services are family-centered and equitable. As partners, CSSP and Family Voices worked together to identify multiple opportunities where family leaders could impact the PSP initiative to transform the delivery of pediatric well-child visits to promote the SED of young children. The PSP project established a diverse “Brain Trust” of parents to advise them throughout the project by  including family leaders on Site Visit Teams, and inviting family leaders to participate and present in a National Convening of stakeholders in the field. Parents felt like their engagement in the project was “more than just a check box,” and that their contributions meaningfully and continuously impacted the direction and outcome of the project.

My experience with the Pediatrics Supporting Parents initiative was unique and encouraging! I’m often asked to participate in community and state level “think tanks” to bring a parent perspective to the group. I typically share my story…provide feedback/constructive criticism…only to see the group move forward with little change. From day one of my involvement in this initiative, CSSP and Family Voices made it very clear that parent input was important and necessary for this project to succeed. ─Family Leader

The brief describes the Framework for Assessing Family Engagement in Systems Change, which was created by Family Voices to identify key criteria that support meaningful family engagement in systems-level initiatives. The framework is organized into four domains of family engagement: Commitment, Transparency, Representation, and Impact. Each domain includes key criteria to  promote, enhance, and sustain family engagement in systems-level initiatives. CSSP and Family Voices staff identified criteria in each domain that would support meaningful family engagement in all phases of the PSP project .

The PSP initiative demonstrates how engaging families early on, in all aspects of a project, is critical to the outcome, and family engagement should be upheld as a best practice to reduce barriers to care, ensure equity, and work towards system-level changes that benefit all families. However, funders, stakeholders, and decision makers must commit to integrating family engagement into systems-level initiatives. The brief provides recommendations to ensure meaningful family engagement, including partnering with family-led organizations, providing and creating opportunities for family leaders to participate as equal partners on steering committees or design teams, and  investing in the infrastructure of family-led organizations.

Read the full Moving Beyond the Family Engagement Check Box: An Innovative Partnership to Promote Authentic Family Engagement in Systems Change product here, and join us on a webinar on November 10th, 2-3pm ET to learn more about how families can be engaged in systems-level initiatives. Register here for the webinar.