Family engagement

Family engagement is an active partnership between families and service providers. For service providers, this means listening to what families think, engaging them in two-way communication and involving them as partners in decision-making so that their involvement is meaningful and has purpose1.


Why is it important?

Family engagement in community child and youth mental health services is increasingly accepted as a best practice2. Not only is it related to successful treatment outcomes3, but it may also increase service use4 and lead to longer involvement in service5. Parents often feel better supported when they are included in decisions about their child, treated with respect and involved in their child’s care6.


How can your community meaningfully engage families?

Family engagement is a unique learning experience for every service provider, organization and community. It’s a process that involves building relationships with families and is not limited to a fixed time frame.

There are ways we can help you get started. Before you begin developing your suicide prevention, risk-management and postvention action plan, consider the following family engagement tools and use them to inform your planning:

  1. ways to engage families at different levels of your community network7.
  2. potential roles for families to play in your community mobilization activities7


For more support and tools on family engagement please refer to the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health:

Additional resources

FamilySmart is a compilation of family-friendly resources on child and youth mental health developed by the Institute of Families, an independent, not-for-profit organization that works to improve child and youth mental health in Canada.

Parents for Children's Mental Health (PCMH)  is a non-profit organization that helps families of children and youth who face mental health challenges by providing them with the information they need to support their children. For support groups and peer-to-peer assistance, look for the PCMH chapter closest to you.

The National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health  is a national, family-run organization that links chapters and organizations focused on the issues of children and youth with emotional, behavioral or mental health needs and their families.


  • 1. Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health, 2012
  • 2. Chovil, 2009
  • 3. Hoagwood, 2005
  • 4. McKay et al., 2004
  • 5. Bannon & Mckay, 2005
  • 6. Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health, 2011
  • 7. a. b. Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health (2012). Bringing Family Engagement into Action