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Recapping the Fostering Family-Centered Solutions Panel: ‘We are Them’

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hosted its 2024 Children Youth and Young Adult Mental Health Symposium on May 17. The theme of the Symposium was Championing Mental Health Together. 

We appreciate that the day’s first panel was “Fostering Family-Centered Solutions for Promoting Mental Health.” SAMHSA set a tone by starting the day emphasizing family-driven practice. (The panel begins at about 1:36:00 on the live stream.) As family members, we are far too accustomed to going to conferences and other public events where it is the norm—sometimes it seems the goal—to blame us and make assumptions about us. Families are a group that many seem to assume is acceptable to scapegoat publicly. Speakers and other participants do it, and even system leaders and policymakers do it.

It is not acceptable to scapegoat us as family members. SAMHSA’s approach was refreshing and much more in keeping with reality. We, as family members, bring so much to the table. Thank you again to SAMHSA for recognizing and modeling what family-driven practice looks like.

Families as Allies’ Henry Moore was one of the panelists. As usual, Henry brought his charismatic personality and good humor to what he shared. Even more importantly, though, he eloquently and accurately shared the very real inequities that some families and groups of families face. He also stated what is true: systems are not designed to respond to those needs. We know these things are true because we work with families every day who are battling system barriers and do not feel heard.

Henry and the other panelists did a great job of highlighting that the only thing that will change these issues is moving from provider-driven to family-driven practice. Check out the definition of family-driven practice, or call us to learn more.

Lynda Gargan, executive director of the National Federation of Families, managed, with few words and great grace, to nail messages about family-driven practice that we’ve committed to at Families as Allies. She spoke about moving beyond family engagement to true partnerships with families (2:06:00) and made it clear, “We believe we are the experts” (2:08:00). In her closing remarks, she reminded the audience (while gesturing to her fellow panelists) that when they talk about families or blame families, “We are them.”

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