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Awards: The Power of Possibility

Helen Healy, C.J. Curran and Carie Gall

Family Facilitators Project: Hiring parents of children with disabilities as Family Facilitators inspires families to plan for their children’s future with hope. Recognizing parents as staff lends credibility to their lived experience and acknowledges the value of their expertise.

Bloorview has many dedicated specialists and experts in every area of rehabilitation and complex care, but for many parents and caregivers, the best advice often comes from another parent sharing their own personal experiences.

This is the rationale behind the Life Skills and Wellness Institute’s Family Facilitator role developed by Helen Healy, C.J. Curran and Carie Gall.

This team realized that programs aimed at developing independence in youth had the unintentional consequence of isolating parents. As a result, there were some challenges transferring the skills learned in the program when young people were back in the family setting. Helen, C.J. and Carie quickly learned that in order for programs promoting independence for youth to be truly successful, there also needed to be an element of interdependence, including family participation.

The Family Facilitator role was inspired by a parent who said it was while talking to other parents who shared their experiences as she waited for her son at one of his appointments where the most significant and meaningful information was gained about raising her son.

Focus groups held with parents of children who had participated in the life skills program further affirmed that parents found it useful to talk with other parents. One parent summed this idea up by saying, “professionals, even family do not understand, [they are] not in our skin. This is the difference between parents…we feel it…a connection.”

Motivated by the parents’ feedback and supporting literature, Helen, C.J. and Carie created the Family Facilitator role – a paid position that recognizes the depth of knowledge a parent can provide that cannot be obtained from another source. 

So far, the response has been very positive – Family Facilitators have been seen as supportive, inspirational, comforting and helpful. “Her strength [is the] biggest inspiration. A parent with [the] same barriers and has broken down the walls and overcame them,” says one parent.

As one clinician put it, “Family Facilitators provide hope and inspiration, illuminate visions for the future and are the catalyst for change – the value of the lived experience is both potent and vast – the need for the role of Family Facilitators is unequivocally clear!” Congratulations to Helen, C.J. and Carie!

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