Family Involvement


Family Involvement: Working Together to Launch MCH in a New Era


By Eileen Forlenza

Family Specialist

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment



Kathy Watters

Director, Children with Special Health Care Needs Unit

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment


We are delighted to elevate the consumer voice as it relates to AMCHP’s mission, values and vision. Integrating the community perspective has been an intentional part of the Colorado Title V Children with Special Health Care Needs (CSHCN) program priorities for over 20 years and we have experienced successful outcomes as a result. Integrating the voice of the community in our work has primarily been done in partnership with families of CSHCN, laying the foundation for the concept of family involvement. However, our focus has progressed from simply involving families to developing their leadership skills to assure meaningful contribution at all levels of policy development – including the board room, exam room and the family room.


Inviting parents, youth and families to partner in their wellness is a concept MCH programs have promoted for years. The challenge is how to grow that partnership beyond a direct care experience and into population-based impact.


Indeed, families of CSHCN may be considered pioneers in this work as they have navigated the complexities of public and private health care systems while their child’s well being lie in the balance. What we have learned from families of CSHCN is that when given an opportunity to be involved in the civic process, their voice can be the most effective related to policy change and development. Taking this model of civic leadership into all MCH programs is a win-win.


Inspiring a shared vision and enabling others to act are core leadership concepts that have been the cornerstone of our work. From a professional perspective, we enjoy the recognition that our expertise and credentials afford us. However, the balance toward excellence comes when we share our expertise with families in authentic partnership. Sharing can be difficult, as it may appear that we are losing something. Without fail, our experience has been just the opposite. When we share our efforts, resources and responsibilities with families, we gain much more than we give!


Family involvement has been the constant in our program because we have seen real policy change through infusing real perspectives. Through strong family leaders in our state, Colorado has established a commitment to decreasing health disparities, promoting wellness while encouraging prevention, and maximizing the full potential of ALL children.


Supporting families to move from dependency to empowerment is our commitment to assuring better health care outcomes for all. With strategies that include civic engagement, leadership development and consumer integration, Colorado looks forward to partnering with AMCHP in this new era of change and hope!