At Emerging Minds, we ensure that we proactively include the voices of children and families with lived experience in our work. Our goal is to build respectful partnerships that allow children and families to share with us their stories of strength, hope and resilience as well as their challenges. These partnerships act as the cornerstone of our work and ensure the best outcomes for what we deliver.
Children and families have important experiences and views to offer. These, combined with the wisdom of practitioners and research, ensure that three types of evidence underpin all of our content development about children’s mental health. Our commitment to partnerships with children and families has seen us develop processes and strategies to allow many people to share their stories in ways that are valued, respected and supported.
The purpose of this child and family partnerships toolkit is to share our knowledge and experiences in ways that will help other organisations to develop and implement child and family partnership strategies. Establishing child and family partnerships may seem daunting at first, and indeed there is a lot to consider. This toolkit helps to break down these processes into plain language, with manageable sections, and provides links, documents and templates for you to adapt for your use.
We are still learning how to undertake the best possible child and family partnership work ourselves and we invite children, families, practitioners, and organisations to share their stories of challenges and successes with us. We hope that this toolkit can be the start of new and generative conversations in the area of child and family partnerships.
I look forward to continuing Emerging Minds’ journey with our child and family partners and wish you all the best in your valuable work in this area.
This toolkit was developed in partnership with children, families and professionals from the Children of Parents with a Mental Illness (COPMI) national initiative (2008–2016) and the Emerging Minds: National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health (2017–). The voices, narratives, and experiences of children and families heavily inform all aspects of this toolkit. It has been built on many years of working in this space and we thank all those who have generously contributed their time and knowledge.
Building genuine partnerships with children and families with lived experience will bring great value to your organisation. However, the development of authentic and mutually-beneficial partnerships can only be ensured where:
- they are supported by a whole-of-organisation approach, guided by robust policies and procedures
- the intent, purpose and limitations of every partnership are clearly explained, transparent and reviewed
- the contribution of child and family partners is consistently recognised through remuneration, reimbursement and/or other appropriate ways
- power differences are diligently considered through careful planning to ensure the respect, safety and wellbeing of child and family partners
- children and young people are recognised and respected for their unique insights, ideas and solutions, and for the role that they can play in ensuring services, organisations, policies and other outcomes are relevant and appropriate for them
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Advocates are engaged in reciprocal relationships using culturally responsive practices
- diversity is ensured through the recruitment of child and family partners with a range of diverse experiences and backgrounds
- an ongoing commitment to evaluation leads to continual improvement in outcomes for both projects and child and family partners.
This toolkit is a start
This toolkit is designed to support authentic, safe and respectful collaborations between organisations and child and family partners (people with lived experience). It will help you to maximise the benefits to your organisation, your clients and your child and family partners.
This is not an ad hoc process, but a planned and considered one. As you utilise this toolkit, be mindful that it has been designed as a guide: one toolkit cannot meet the needs of every organisation’s scope and context. It can also be useful to get in touch with other organisations actively undertaking child and family partnership strategies and learn from them.
“Successful partnerships don’t happen overnight; they grow over time as trust and relationships develop. Nothing will ever be perfect and you may just start with a small handful of people who are interested in being involved with you, but you’ll be surprised how over the years you will be able to develop partnerships that are deeply trusting, respectful, authentic, and really have a priceless value to your organisation’s work, to you professionally and personally, to those children and families that you’re partnering with, and ultimately to the children and families your organisation is seeking to assist.”
– Emerging Minds staff member
The tiles below are designed to be read in chronological order and together form a process for undertaking child and family partnerships.