Family Involvement and Family Delegates at AMCHP

By Michelle Jarvis Michelle Jarvis
Program Manager for Family Involvement, AMCHP

Families are integral to the work the Association of Maternal & Child Health Professionals (AMCHP) does to improve the health of women, children, families and communities. Families are engaged within AMCHP as representatives on the Board and standing committees and are the focus of the Family Scholars Program. Additionally, AMCHP encourages Title V programs to engage families as voting delegates through the Family Delegate position. Each Title V program paying dues may designate up to five delegates who have voting rights and the fifth delegate seat must be held by a family liaison to the Title V program.

The program provides each state with the opportunity to appoint a family leader to serve as a delegate to AMCHP for their state. A Family Delegate is a parent, relative or adult consumer of a state or territorial Title V program system who has been designated by the Title V director to serve as a voting member of the program’s delegation to AMCHP. If you would like to learn more about the role of an AMCHP Family Delegate, click here to read the AMCHP Family Delegate Fundamental fact sheet.

Family Delegates are a rich source of information to AMCHP due to their connection to a Title V program and their experience as a consumer of maternal and child health programs. AMCHP wants to continue to engage more families and to learn what topics are relevant to family leaders. Therefore, in February 2011, AMCHP sent an electronic survey to all Family Delegates. The survey was developed with input from the AMCHP Family and Youth Leadership Committee (FYLC), which consists of family representatives from Title V, partner organizations and a federal representative. The purpose of the survey was to gain information regarding the individuals serving as Family Delegates in order to better serve as a resource to them. The survey asked questions regarding current characteristics and roles of Family Delegates, ways that they are being engaged/involved with Title V programs and AMCHP, as well as to gain insight to their knowledge and skill set. Additionally, Family Delegates were asked to identify what they see as priority training needs for family leaders on such topics as public health and Title V knowledge base, critical thinking and management skills, as well as leadership development skills. During the 2011 Annual Conference, AMCHP also hosted a Family Delegate dinner and collected similar feedback directly from those who were in attendance.

Out of 39 Family Delegates that received the survey, 21 responded. The survey results are providing AMCHP with valuable information about the skills, knowledge, involvement and needs of Family Delegates. For example, survey results indicate that 90 percent of respondents are parents of a child/youth with special health care needs, 76 percent are involved with family support, 71 percent share AMCHP information with other family members in their state, and 86 percent have skills in translating policy into organizational plans, structures and programs.

The AMCHP FYLC has convened a family engagement work group to identify key strategies for soliciting, maintaining and sustaining family engagement in AMCHP work. Since May 2011, the work group has discussed the survey and the results are being utilized to identify the activities that will be implemented to better engage Family Delegates. The Family Delegate survey revealed that 80 percent of the Family Delegates want to communicate and network with each other at least quarterly (if not more frequently). Their preference is to connect through conference call (80 percent), followed by in person meetings (50 percent). In addition, the survey also revealed that 40 percent of the respondents had questions about their role. Based on this information, the family engagement work group plans to hold quarterly connecting points for Family Delegates via calls and one in-person meeting during the annual conference to provide a forum for delegates to connect and to give them an opportunity to provide input on future initiatives. The workgroup will review the survey in detail and identify other ways to provide support and resources to individuals serving as Family Delegates.

The Family Delegate position has been in existence for five years and this survey is providing AMCHP with valuable information on how to improve it, information that AMCHP should consider when targeting activities to family leaders and Family Delegates, as well as how to better engage individuals serving in the role. If you have any questions about the Family Delegate survey or the work of the family engagement work group, please contact Michelle Jarvis.