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Key messages

  • Quality improvement involves continually seeking feedback from child and family partners through a variety of methods.
  • Successful partnerships result in both the satisfaction and wellbeing of child and family partners, and improved outcomes for the organisation and end users.
  • Be transparent in your partnerships – no one does this work perfectly, no one has all the answers. Your strength is in your willingness to receive feedback and continually improve.
  • Make an ongoing commitment to evaluating what works and what doesn’t and share this knowledge with other organisations when possible.

Quality improvement involves continually seeking feedback from child and family partners through a variety of methods. It is important to be open to critical feedback and to remember that mistakes are the best way to learn and improve.

When undertaking quality improvement activities, keep in mind that the two main reasons for engaging in child and family partnerships are:

  • to undertake the process based on the moral value of inclusion (intrinsic value)
  • to enhance the quality of an organisations’ outcomes (instrumental value) (Tyndale, Amos & Price-Robertson, 2020).

“Strong and robust relationships happen over time. They happen after lots of interactions that demonstrate that we respect and value our child and family partners, and these strong relationships allow us to be open to receiving critical or constructive feedback from our partners and not to push back against it.

This can be hard to do but taking the time to step back, reflect on feedback offered to us, deeply listen to it without judgement, and see where we may be able to implement changes to improve both our products, our services, or our processes is really important.

It might be that we’re not able to implement all of the feedback that we’re given, but it’s our job to sit down and really consider it, give it the respect and time that it deserves, and make those changes where we can.”

– Emerging Minds staff member

Some tips for quality improvement of your child and family partnerships are:

  • Recognise that your organisation is not the expert in other people’s lives. Be open and comfortable with feedback and criticism, acknowledge where you may fall short, and strive to improve.
  • Successful partnerships result in the satisfaction and wellbeing of child and family partners, and improved outcomes for the organisation and end users.
  • Make an ongoing commitment to evaluating what works and what doesn’t and share this knowledge with other organisations when possible.
  • Use a variety of mechanisms to gather feedback: internal and external reviews, surveys, phone consultations, face-to-face meetings, workshops, and personal reflections.
  • Seek feedback after each meeting or period of significant work. A survey followed up by a phone call is an effective process. An anonymous survey may help to collect information that people would otherwise not feel comfortable sharing. You might like to use this evaluation form template.
  • Provide the opportunity for partners to give feedback to a manager or other staff member they feel most comfortable with, rather than to the facilitating worker directly. This may help partners to feel more comfortable being honest and open in their feedback.
  • It is also useful to keep a record of the specific partnership activities undertaken, the number of partners involved, and the number of hours contributed.
  • If your organisation has the capacity, a formal evaluation of your child and family partnerships can be extremely valuable. However, as with all evaluations, this would need to be planned and implemented with care. Kaisler and Missbach (2019)’s ‘Guide to patient and public engagement and involvement in research’ may be a useful resource.
  • Be transparent with your partners – no one does this work perfectly, no one has all the answers. This work will involve small mistakes and shared learnings for all. Your strength is in your willingness to receive feedback and continually improve.

Remember that while partners may be vulnerable in some ways, they are also resilient and have many strengths. We encourage you to ‘have a go’, check in with partners along the way, and be willing to continually develop your own awareness, skills and confidence, along with your partners’.

What positive feedback might look like

“Partnerships have been a place for me to be heard and contribute in a way that I had never thought possible. It provided extra and rich layers to the meaning of my life’s experiences, and was a validating and even a nurturing process.”

– Child and family partner

 

“I really enjoyed it. It was so worthwhile being able to share my experience in a supportive environment, both [thanks to] the staff and other lived experience members. It taught me valuable skills about resource development, and I felt empowered being able to use my experiences to support other families going through similar things.”

– Child and family partner

 

“Overall, it was an excellent experience to feel, at my stage of life, that I had a forum; I could give something back of my experience as a child and adolescent that was listened to, understood and valued.”

– Child and family partner

 

“It was one of the most enjoyable times I have had. Meeting wonderful people and sharing experiences and thoughts. Creating material that has helped many families, and useful tools for clinicians. Created in a way that was relevant and user friendly and in a language that could be readily understood.”

– Child and family partner

 

“There’s lots of evidence that partnerships can be beneficial to the children and families that are involved. To professionals, I’d like to say from my experience that I now carry with me in my head and my heart so many stories of grief, loss, trauma, hope, courage and survival, that have not only changed my work for the better, but in many ways have changed my life for the better.”

– Emerging Minds staff member

What critical feedback might look like

“I think some of the other negative or challenging elements to engagement can just be the ad hoc, sporadic nature of it; so you don’t have that sense of ‘this is what happens next, and this is what happens next, and I am part of a bigger picture’ that most of the staff would probably have a sense of. I think we have a long way to go in terms of child and family partnerships, but we are on the right track.”

– Child and family partner

 

“Cramming a lot of content in can be quite exhausting. Not staying on task, which isn’t always easy in a group situation, especially with lived experience.”

– Child and family partner

 

“Not enough inclusion in the design of the strategy of the initiative for those of us interested. I would like to have seen us have a rotating position on the Board or some other part of the organisation … It felt like ‘us and them’ at times, with some one or two privileged of ‘us’ being able to participate at another level.”

– Child and family partner

 

“Occasionally I felt disempowered. To lessen the likelihood of this happening again, I feel that it would be helpful for staff to remember to come from a position of wanting to learn from family partners, and not to position themselves as experts.”

– Child and family partner

 

“Some of the more challenging aspects of being involved, particularly in the group work, were working with people who have different understandings of their experiences. Even though we all came to the process with a common experience of distress and adversity in some shape or form, some of us were children or parents experiencing adversity. Some of us were partners. Some of us were people with mental health issues. Some of us were grandparents.

And so, once you throw those experiences of distress into the mix and you are having a conversation about something that is reasonably challenging, you then have some people who like to talk a lot about their experiences. Some people who are still angry. Some people who are very distressed, and some people who have had unfortunate experiences with partners or with families in some other way, which can make it very, very difficult to have a conversation.

People have different personalities and ways of contributing to the groups. Being open about those differences, being relaxed about those differences, making sure that those differences are managed, is helpful. Nonetheless, I think it is something that we do need to recognise, and we need to be aware of it, and we need to be willing to talk about it together.”

– Child and family partner

The framework below illustrates some of the reasons child and family partners choose to get involved with an organisation, and what encourages them to stay involved.

One checklist cannot capture this entire toolkit. However, you may find the list below a useful quick reference tool to check-in with as you undertake child and family partnership work.

Download the Emerging Minds Child and Family Partnerships checklist