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Family Engagement Specialists

Guiding Principles of Family Engagement
Family engagement is grounded in a set of guiding principles that inform how to work with families to ensure engagement is authentic and meaningful:

1.  Families are experts in their children and youth.
2.  The needs of children/youth are considered within the framework of the family unit.
3.  Family strengths, capacity, and resiliency are emphasized.
4.  Families are partners at all levels of the system and system planning.
5.  Professionals maintain collaborative relationships with families.
6.  Families are experts in their needs and capacity to support their children/youth.
7.  Families are partners in the development and evaluation of services.

These principles were generated based on research evidence, family expertise and clinical insights.


The Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health and Parents for Children’s Mental Health are proud to announce a new partnership that puts more family engagement support and expertise within reach of child and youth mental health agencies all across the province.

Together, our organizations have introduced a team of family engagement specialists to support meaningful and long-lasting family engagement across the system – from planning to evaluation.

Our specialists are experts in practices of family engagement and have experience navigating the children’s mental health system and working with organizations to develop meaningful engagement, processes and activities. Their work continues to grow a provincial network of families to inform transformation at the system level.

A few examples of how the family engagement specialists are working with service areas:

  • Working with agency leadership and staff to build firm foundations for meaningful and sustained family engagement practices.
  • Supporting key family engagement processes, including recruiting, consultation, co-creation and evaluation.
  • Supporting  identification and implementation of opportunities to harness meaningful family engagement to strengthen agency and community initiatives.
  • Providing a constant link to a provincial network of family engagement expertise agencies can tap in to strengthen their work.
  • Helping to amplify the impact of existing activities by supporting family engagement staff with expertise and advice related to the family experience AND the evidence-informed practice of family engagement



Brandi Gowan

Supporting: Northern Ontario, Central and Southwestern Ontario

Brandi brings her lived-experience and her expertise in public relations and marketing communications into her role as Family Engagement Specialist within PCMH. She supports, coaches and provides family engagement training and consultation to Ontario's child and youth mental health sector. She has participated in review panels and consultations and sits as a family advisor and board member for many provincial children's mental health organizations and provincial initatives. As a mother with four children, Brandi understands the reality of accessing and navigating child and youth mental health services in rural Ontario.


Sarah Cannon

Supporting: Toronto - Kinark service areas - Algoma - Niagara - Timiskaming

Sarah has worked in the area of family engagement for many years, co-developing the evidence informed model of family engagement, as well as the Provincial Curriculum for Family Engagement Training.  She continues to support the work of family engagement throughout PCMH and the Province, as the Lead Specialist for Province of Ontario. Sarah also has two daughters, both struggling with mental health concerns.

I just wanted to say thank you to you and the governing body at PCMH. The newsletters are an important source of knowledge and support. I have found that this journey in … Member, St. Thomas