Families as full research partners: What's in it for us?


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Abstract

This article describes a children's managed mental health care program that incorporates both a family participation service model and a family-initiated evaluation model. The authors begin by tracing the evolution of the family support and the participatory research movements leading to current developments in children's mental health services research. In the King County Blended Funding Project, three service systems pool funds that are spent flexibly by child and family teams. Family advocates have led efforts to design and implement the project evaluation. During this process, many tensions have arisen between meeting the demands of both scientific rigor and multiple community stakeholders. Examples are given of the issues raised by family advocates and research scientists as together they established a theory of change, identified meaningful outcomes, selected measurement tools, and implemented the evaluation protocol. Guidelines are given for how services research partnerships can be successfully built to better address community needs.This article was selected as a distinguished research paper based on a presentation by the authors at the 1998 11th annual research conference titled “A System of Care for Children's Mental Health: Expanding the Research Base.” This conference is sponsored annually by the Research and Training Center for Children's Mental Health, Department of Child and Family Studies, Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, University of South Florida, Tampa.

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