Meg Comeau, MHA
Senior Project Director
Catalyst Center, Center for Innovation in Social Work and Health, Boston University
Specialist, Family Engagement and Leadership Development
Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs
National Maternal and Child Health Workforce Development Center, The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
These are exciting times for family and professional partnership in maternal and child health.
While including the family perspective in the work of Title V has long been valued, the concept of full partnership is now being put into practice; coordinated and genuine collaboration is considered an attainable goal.
The U.S. Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) refers to family partnership as "the intentional practice of working with families for the goal of positive outcomes in all areas through the life course. Family engagement reflects a belief in the value of the family leadership at all levels from an individual, community and policy level" (Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant to States Program; 2014/15).
Established in 2013, the National Maternal and Child Health Workforce Development Center (the Center) is based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is funded through a cooperative agreement with MCHB. Through partnerships with the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP) and national experts in maternal and child health (MCH) innovation, The Center uses several platforms to provide state and jurisdictional Title V leaders training, collaborative learning, coaching, and consultation to leverage the current transformational nature of health systems and improve population health.
The Center engages state/jurisdictional Title V workforce in a variety of learning opportunities, including cohorts of six teams that participate in an eight-month learning initiative through which the Center supports their work on a complex project with the goal of increasing workforce skills and capacity. The Center began accepting applications in October for its 2019 Cohort.
The Center strives to infuse the family perspective across its own organization. Four Center staff serve on the Family Engagement team — one of six Center Cores and Teams — which is specifically charged with integrating the family perspective into all aspects of the Center's work. The Family Engagement team's objective is to maintain the perspective of stakeholders, consumers, families, and community partners in state teams' projects and to provide resources in support of participation by family leaders and consumers from diverse perspectives. The team ensures that Center values and goals stay aligned with improving the health of all women and children and that family leaders are equal partners in learning opportunities offered by The Center to state Title V professionals.
The Family Engagement team is led by a family leader on staff with The Center and includes representatives of three Center professional partner organizations that are committed to family and professional partnership in MCH. These are:
- The Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs
- The Catalyst Center
- Family Voices
Like other Center Cores and Teams, the Family Engagement team offers assistance to state teams engaged with The Center. This assistance includes brainstorming opportunities to address teambuilding; supports for the participation of diverse consumers, family, and community partners; and ideas for family and professional partnership to advance state teams' projects.
With increasing numbers of states and jurisdictions proposing family engagement-related projects, the Family Engagement team set out in 2018 to assemble a toolbox of resources to offer to state teams. The Center connects with a number of the MCHB-funded family engagement-focused technical assistance centers to help develop capacity and family partnership. These include AMCHP, The Catalyst Center, and Family Voices, which are each represented on the Family Engagement team and are a rich source of resources and expertise.
Two Family Engagement team members attended the National Family Support Network's certification training, Standards of Quality for Family Strengthening and Support. Developed by the California Network of Family Strengthening Networks and adopted by the National Family Support Network, this tool establishes a common language to promote quality practice across many kinds of programs that work with and support families. It is designed to be used as a planning tool for providing and assessing quality services. The tool offers 17 standards of quality within five sections (family centeredness, family strengthening, embracing diversity, community building, and evaluation) by which quality indicators from minimum to high can be measured. The Family Engagement team presented this tool at The Center's Strategic Skills Institute in Tempe, Ariz., in August 2018. Several state teams in attendance found the preliminary introduction to the tool very effective for projects they are proposing to work on in conjunction with The Center.
For more information about the National Maternal and Child Health Workforce Development Center, its Family Engagement team, or to apply for a future Cohort, visit mchwdc.unc.edu or contact Alice Wertheimer at firstname.lastname@example.org