We lift up the most important experts in the room: the parents and caregivers that have experience with kids living with mental health challenges. Decisions that impact families have typically focused on content expertise, or the letters behind people’s names (as one of our family leaders put it) from academic or professional experience. We lift up context expertise, such as from someone actually living with or through something, the lived experience of the issue. Context experts have a wealth of knowledge and skills to contribute to identifying, implementing, and evaluating solutions. Want to change a system? Change who makes decisions.
We remove barriers to participation. For example, we pay people for their time and talent; we provide food at meetings; we support childcare and transportation; we are flexible to scheduling around location and time. If other people who are at the table because of their jobs and are getting paid, so should context experts be paid. We encourage other groups to follow best practices such as this for authentic community engagement.
We nurture the leadership skills of parents and other caregivers in our Coalition. Our Family Leader Learning Community, a group of only family leaders who gather in solidarity, co-developed* a training on how to facilitate groups. We continue to train other family leaders in this skill, as well as knowledge in children’s mental health, so they are prepared to advocate in groups or to lead their own efforts.
With our Coalition, we put the voice of parents at the center with our decisions, workgroup leadership, and Core Council leadership. To be even more specific, we emphasize the voices of parents of color because of Milwaukee’s population and history. We know the experiences of families of color with health systems need to be at the center in order to build trust and a system that works for all people.
“Parents and caregivers are key to efforts to prevent and reduce the harmful effects of adverse experiences” - Working Toward Well-Being (CCSP)