As a parent you have much to offer, teach, and share. You bring unique experiences, perspectives, and expertise. Everyone benefits when families and providers work together to improve healthcare, education, and community life for children with special health and/or developmental needs. We hope to give you general information and guidance on what’s involved in becoming an effective family advisor, no matter what setting you choose.
A family advisor is a parent or other family member who draws on personal experiences to influence decisions and help shape programs and policies. This may include a wide variety of activities such as: being a member of an advisory council, board, focus group, community coalition or becoming a reviewer of written or web based materials, or being a program evaluator, teacher, trainer, speaker and/or mentor to other families.
Interested in becoming a family advisor? It makes sense to start looking for opportunities by contacting people and organizations that you know to learn about what opportunities might exist:
Once you have found an opportunity in a family advising role, it is important to decide if it is the right opportunity for you.
Becoming a successful family advisor is a role that most people grow into as a result of many factors, including:
When looking for or accepting family advisor roles, it is important to ask questions and get the right information so you are clear on what you will be asked to do. Then you can decide if it is a good fit for you at this time.
Questions to consider include:
How much should you share about your child and family if you become a family advisor? Talking about your personal experiences can be a very effective way to illustrate a point and influence people’s thinking.
Self-disclosure makes good sense when:
Guidelines for self-disclosure:
Stories are an effective way to teach and influence people’s thinking. Stories are personal and their images stick with listeners in ways that abstract ideas and data don’t. Whether you are invited to tell your story as an informal talk to a few people or to give a formal presentation to a large group, the more prepared you are the better chance you have at delivering a clear message that makes an impact.
Here are a few tips to help you effectively tell your story as a family advisor:
Whether you are asked to join a committee that meets on a regular basis or provide feedback in a one time focus group, or something in between, participating in meetings as a family advisor is important work.
A small but important shift occurs when you become a family advisor. You move beyond advocating for your own child and family to collaborating with others for the benefit of all children and families. To be effective in this role, you must have a strong sense of self combined with good listening, critical thinking and communication skills.