FamilySmart offers peer-based support, help with navigating services and information, education and resources on child and youth mental health for parents and caregivers all across BC and in Edmonton, Alberta. We spoke with Tara Wolff, Director, Expansion and Engagement, to find out more about them.
Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.
FamilySmart is a national child and youth mental health non-profit organization, based in BC, created and founded by parents of children and youth with mental health challenges for families with young people struggling with similar challenges. We provide peer-based support, help with navigating services and information, education and resources on child and youth mental health for parents and caregivers all across BC and in Edmonton, Alberta. In addition to our peer support services, FamilySmart is a trusted source of information on child and youth mental health from a family perspective through our “in the know” monthly online events, “Help for the Hard Times” workshops for families in crisis and “Working Well Together” training sessions that bring together young people, parents, caregivers and professionals to learn with and from each other. We are also the founders of May 7th, National Child and Youth Mental Health Day.
What problem does it aim to solve?
Our organization exists to help parents and caregivers whose children/young people are struggling with their mental health and/or substance use challenges to feel less alone, less afraid, more empowered and more supported themselves as they support their children/young people.
When did you start/join it?
FamilySmart was founded 23 years ago, in June 2000.
What made you want to get involved?
Our organization’s founders experienced the loneliness, isolation, discrimination and stress of navigating complex health systems with their own children. Their experiences led them to wonder where other families like theirs were and if they were struggling in similar ways. They created FamilySmart and the programs we offer, as a way to help other families.
What was the situation like when you started?
In the year 2000, there was no provincial or national plan to address child and youth mental health and parents and caregivers of children and youth with mental health challenges were often blamed, shamed and not engaged in the mental health care of their children or youth. There was also no parent or family organization solely focused on supporting families whose children or youth were struggling with their mental health.
How has it changed since?
Through FamilySmart, Parent Peer Support is now available for parents and caregivers throughout BC and in Edmonton, AB. Notably, FamilySmart Parent Peer Support is now embedded directly into some hospital crisis stabilization units, adolescent day treatment programs and outpatient services where peer-based services never existed before. Through the work our organization does, we are able to help families navigate services during a hospital stay and also after discharge through our one-of-a-kind Help for the Hard Times workshop. A practical and supportive workshop for families to understand safety plans and how to support themselves and their families when their young person is in crisis.
What more needs to be done?
FamilySmart services and supports for families and caregivers need to be offered widely in clinical settings across all health authorities in BC and in other provinces across the country.
How can our readers help?
Spreading the word about the importance of support for the parents and carers of children and youth with mental health challenges. We know that children do better when their parents are supported. Donations to our organization are always needed and gratefully received.
Do you have any events coming up?
FamilySmart hosts regular online events for parents & caregivers who are parenting a child or youth with a mental health and/or substance use challenge called “in the know.” We watch a video and share experiences and strategies that help in the hard moments and focus on strengthening our understanding and connection with our kids. Monthly events are on pause for the summer months and resume again in September. Please visit our website to register for our Fall series.
Where can we follow you?
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