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About Sickkids
About SickKids

January 16, 2014

Family Advisory Network is looking for more members

By Marg Sheridan

The Family Advisory Network (FAN) at SickKids is looking for more members.

A year ago, SickKids established the network for families who volunteer with various hospital committees and projects. It was developed in response to patient, family and staff suggestions for improving family-centred care at SickKids. The network represents SickKids’ ongoing commitment to partnering with patients and families in shaping the hospital they rely on for care.

When FAN was created, there were a dozen or so volunteers serving as family advisors at SickKids. The aim is to increase the network to about 100 members who can help SickKids in its mission to provide the best in complex and specialized family-centred care.

FAN members are parents, siblings or caregivers of a current or former patient, as well as former patients now over the age of 18 and who have received care at SickKids in the past five years.

More volunteers are needed to increase the diversity of the network and ensure that there are sufficient advisors to address the increasing demand for the family voice.

Families who are interested in this work may contact family.centre@sickkids.ca or call 416-813-6528.

“There are probably about 10 committees right now with family representatives,” says Sarah McBain, Manager of the Family Centre. “There are people helping to shape a new strategy for ambulatory care, there are people on our Family-Centred Care Advisory Council (FCCAC) and on unit-specific committees; it all depends on the wishes of the individual. And that’s the crux of it – as an advisor, you’re part of a network that is working to bring change hospital-wide.

“The work can also be tailored. We have families who come up to us and say ‘I only have a couple of hours a month to devote to something but I really want to give back.’ Then we can match them up with the needs of the committee based on the needs of the family,” adds McBain. ““We keep looking for different ways for families to become advisors and get involved.”

Serving as a family advisor is rewarding, says Sitara deGagne, a parent and FCCAC member.

“It allows you to find a voice in the greater system. Quite often you’re here because your child is ill, and you’re powerless in a lot of respects. By participating in this way, you learn more about the institution that you’re maneuvering through and it also gives you a chance to give back,” says deGagne. “I can spot that newly diagnosed parent and child, that dazed and shell-shocked look, a mile away. I would like to be able to impart anything I could to make their path smoother because I know how rocky it was for me – sometimes you just need a guide. By developing FAN we draw on the strengths and experiences of parents and families to better the hospital and create support.”