Services designed collaboratively with children, families and practitioners tend to be more effective, more acceptable to the individuals and families using the service, and more relevant to their local context.
Engaging with, and listening to, the views of children, families and practitioners is a strategy used to improve outcomes for children and their families1. Such engagement implies more than simply consultation with children, families and practitioners and has been defined as “a process whereby a service system:
- proactively seeks out community values, concerns and aspirations;
- incorporates those values, concerns and aspirations into a decision-making process or processes; and
- establishes an ongoing partnership with the community to ensure that the community’s priorities and values continue to shape services and the service system”2.
Service provision for child mental health is a collaborative process that involves the cooperation and input of everyone involved—professionals, children, and parents and other family members. When striving to include child, family and practitioner voices, it is important to establish partnerships between these different groups, so that needs and perspectives of each group may be understood by all involved.
The inclusion of child, family and practitioner voices is particularly important in disadvantaged communities, where services may not be accessed by vulnerable and marginalised families with complex needs1. Children and families with the most complex problems are less likely to access services, and more likely to cease involvement with services3.
The views of children should be heard in a way that is age-appropriate4. Research has found that children want to be more involved in their care and that children as young as four years have demonstrated competence in “analysing and discussing issues that are of importance to them”5. In addition to enhancing services, listening to children’s voices fulfils child rights principles and can have developmental benefits for the children and families involved3.
The National Workforce Centre aims to lead by example in partnership and co-production strategies. This will involve ensuring that the development and implementation of workforce development resources are informed by the practice experiences of professionals and the lived experience of children, parents and family members. It will also involve the development of resources that assist organisations to themselves implement partnership and co-production strategies.
1. Moore, T., McDonald, M., McHugh-Dillon, H., and West, S. , Community engagement: A key strategy for improving outcomes for Australian families. CFCA Paper No. 39. . 2016, Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.
2. Moore, T., McDonald, M., McHugh-Dillon, H., and West, S. , Community engagement: A key strategy for improving outcomes for Australian families. CFCA Paper No. 39. . 2016, Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies, pg. 19.
3. Head, B., Why not ask them? Mapping and promoting youth participation. Children and Youth Services Review, 2011. 33(4): p. 541-547.
4. Moore, T., McDonald, M., & McHugh-Dillon, H., Early childhood development and the social determinants of health inequities: A review of the evidence. 2014, Parkville, Victoria: Centre for Community Child Health at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
5. Coyne, I., Consultation with children in hospital: Children, parents’ and nurses’ perspectives. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 2006. 15: pg. 69.