Family Advisory Network – Terms of Reference

Niagara Children’s Centre Family Advisory Network – Terms of Reference



Niagara Children’s Centre has developed a Family Engagement Framework with the goal of engaging families to help improve the quality of services at Niagara Children’s Centre, as well as the family experience related to those services. The framework is grounded in the acknowledgement that families are important partners in the planning and delivery of Centre services. 

The Family Engagement Framework identifies three Pillars of Engagement. Each pillar represents different domain areas with specific objectives for engaging families: Families as Informed Consumers, Family to Family Support, and Families as Advisors. The Family Advisory Network falls within the Families as Advisors pillar. Strengthening the Centre’s Culture of Family Centred Care is an additional domain area that serves as a foundational component to these pillars.


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The Families as Advisors pillar is intended to develop the capacity of families to provide input and recommendations into key organizational processes and committees from the family perspective. There are several equally impactful opportunities for families to act as advisors that give families a range of choices about how to be involved. These include membership on the Family Advisory Network, membership on the Centre’s standing committees, and participation in ad-hoc/specific-purpose opportunities including projects and improvement initiatives, surveys, focus groups, and use of the Centre’s Complaints/Compliments Process. The Families as Advisors pillar is also intended to develop the capacity of families to effectively share their stories to various audiences and to be ambassadors for the Centre.



General Manual: Family Centred Care Philosophy

General Manual: Family Engagement Policy and Framework

General Manual: Family Engagement Committee Terms of Reference

General Manual: Client Rights and Responsibilities

General Manual: Complaints and Compliments





A family consists of two or more people, whether living together or apart, related by blood, marriage, adoption, or commitment to care for one another.


Family-Centred Care

Family-centred care is an approach to children’s healthcare which respects the central role of the family in a child’s life and, therefore, upholds the importance of the family as a partner on the health care team. Family-Centred care is based on the following four core principles: dignity and respect, information sharing, participation, collaboration.


Family Engagement

Family Engagement is a deliberate and strengths-based approach to partnering with families to make decisions, set goals, and achieve desired outcomes.



Role of the Family Advisory Network

The Family Advisory Network (FAN) seeks to continually enhance all areas of service delivery and the experiences of children and their families through a formal, ongoing mechanism of communication, collaboration and partnership between families and Niagara Children’s Centre.  In this role, the FAN contributes the family perspective and upholds the principles of Family-Centered Care.

Principles and Critical Components

·         Families bring perspective and insights that nobody else can provide

·         All families are different and offer unique perspectives that are encouraged and respected

·         The efforts of the FAN are focused on improving care and experiences

·         The FAN is a forum for organizational issues, rather than individual ones

·         Members of the FAN approach work collaboratively and positively

·         The FAN recognizes that the Centre’s decisions are guided by evidence-informed decisions and Ministry policy and legislation

·         Members of the FAN are more than just informants, but also are partners and collaborators

·         The FAN provides a safe and supportive environment for families to succeed in advisory roles

·         The FAN is intended to be mutually beneficial to members of the Council, the children and families who receive services from Niagara Children’s Centre, and the Centre as a whole


·         ADVISE: to provide input and recommendations on organizationally identified* topics/issues related to child and family experiences, programs, services, strategic directions, initiatives, educational materials, policies, and procedures

·         PARTNER: to actively partner with Centre staff in the development,  implementation, and evaluation phases of organizationally identified* enhancements  to child and family experiences, programs, services, initiatives, educational materials, policies, procedures

o   *Organizationally identified topics/issues and enhancements are selected through the

Centre’s existing methods of gathering representative information about the needs, priorities, and ideas of families, staff, Board Members, and community partners.  

·         LEAD: to undertake, if desired, FAN driven projects and initiatives that align with the Centre’s goals of enhancing Family-Centred Care


The Family Advisory Network consists of 12-20 volunteer family members, the Family Engagement Facilitator (Centre Staff), and 1 Senior Management Representative (Chair of the Family Engagement Committee). The Centre’s Chief Executive Officer will be an ex-officio member of the FAN.

Family members must have a child(ren) who is currently receiving services from the Niagara Children’s Centre or a child(ren) who has previously received service within 1 year of beginning his/her membership term. Efforts will be made to select family members who are broadly representative of the diversity of children and families served by Niagara Children’s Centre (e.g. geography, age of child, programs and services utilized etc).

Member Composition

The FAN will be comprised of two Co-Chairs and Members at Large.

The Co-Chairs will consist of one family member and the Senior Management Representative. An alternate Co-Chair will be appointed to fulfill the duties of the family member Co-Chair in the event that he/she cannot temporarily fulfill the role.  For the inaugural year, the family member Co-Chair and alternate Co-Chair will be appointed by the Family Engagement Facilitator and Senior Management Representative.

Member Roles and Responsibilities  

Co-Chairs will:

·         Arrange and lead meetings

·         Co-ordinate topics of interest and focus: develop the meeting agendas and formalize a FAN work plan  with the Family Engagement Facilitator

·         Review and revise meeting minutes with the Family Engagement Facilitator

·         Ensure FAN work adheres to the terms of reference

·         Bring recommendations and updates forward to the Senior Management Team

·         Represent and speak on behalf of the FAN when requested

·         Write an annual report summarizing the Council’s activities and achievements during the year with the Family Engagement Facilitator

The Family Engagement Facilitator will:

·         Co-ordinate topics of interest and focus: develop the meeting agendas and formalize a FAN work plan with the Co-Chairs

·         Record meeting minutes

·         Review and revise meeting minutes with the Co-Chairs

·         Provide orientation and ongoing support (information, training, resources) for FAC members to succeed in their roles

·         Provide support (information, training, resources) to Centre Staff who attend meetings to seek FAC input

·         Act as a liaison between Centre Staff and FAN members as necessary to accomplish FAN objectives

·         Represent and speak on behalf of the FAN when requested

·         Monitor and evaluate the meeting effectiveness (e.g. member satisfaction, accomplishment of objectives, etc)

·         Write an annual report summarizing the Council’s activities and achievements during the year with the Co-Chairs

All FAN members will:

·         Attend and participate in meetings (notwithstanding family circumstances), send notifications of regrets in the event of not being able to attend a meeting, pre-read meeting materials

·         When interested and available, lead a FAN subcommittee or FAN-related project

·         Contribute ideas in the development of the FAN work plan

·         Share insights and information about experiences in ways others can learn from them

·         See beyond personal experiences and bring experiences and perceptions of other families to the discussion

·         Show interest for more than one issue

·         Listen well

·         Respect the perspectives of others with a non-judgemental attitude

·         Be comfortable speaking in a group situation

·         Maintain a positive attitude

·         Interact well with many different kinds of people

·         Work in partnership with others

·         Respect privacy and confidentiality

The CEO (ex-officio) will:

·         Receive copies of all the meeting agendas, minutes, and work plan/ annual reports

·         May attend meetings of the FAN

Term of membership

Terms will run September 1 to August 31. Appointments to the Network will take place in May. 

The family member Co-Chair and alternate family member Co-Chair will serve a 2 year term.   

Members at Large will serve a 1 or 2 year term. In the first year, half of the members will be appointed to a one-year term and the other half a two-year term for continuity purposes. Members at Large can be re-appointed for 3 consecutive terms if they continue to meet membership criteria.

Members missing more than 3 consecutive meetings will be asked to discuss their ability to continue their commitment to being a FAN member with the Co-Chairs.   


Dates and locations of the FAN meetings will be posted on the website and the Centre’s Facebook page. Family members who are not FAN members are welcome to attend meetings as guests, however will not be active participants or decision makers in the meeting. Time will be set aside at the end of each meeting to receive questions and comments from guests. Interested family members must notify the Family Engagement Facilitator of their wish to attend a particular meeting a week in advance and (if applicable) identify the nature of his/her question or comment.  The Family Engagement Facilitator will determine if the question or comment is appropriate for the Family Advisory Network or should be brought forward through an alternative Niagara Children’s Centre process.

Additional Niagara Children’s Centre staff may attend meetings who are seeking Council feedback on current projects and may also be invited to meetings by the Network, from time to time, if they are considered essential in assisting the FAN accomplish current objectives.

Meeting Times, Frequency, Location and Childcare

Meetings will be held in the evenings from 6:30-8:30pm at Niagara Children’s Centre. Meetings will typically be held monthly, with approximately 8 meetings between September and June. Additional meetings can be called at the discretion of co-chairs, although this is likely to be infrequent.  Meeting frequency will be reviewed annually.

Childcare will be provided on-site beginning one half hour prior to the beginning of each meeting. Care will be provided by a combination of Centre staff and trained volunteers.

Voting and Quorum

Consensus will be the preferred model of decision making. When consensus cannot be reached, a simple majority vote will be accepted. All members will have one vote in any decision with the exception of the Family Engagement Facilitator and Senior Management Representative who will not vote. Voting will take place by a show of hands, unless a secret ballot is requested. In the event of a tie, the Family Engagement Facilitator and Senior Management Representative will share one vote.

 A minimum of half of the members must participate for a vote to be taken.

Member Recruitment and Selection

  1. Various recruitment methods will be used to inform and interest family members.
  2. Prospective new members will complete an application form
  3. When seats become available on the Network, perspective new members will attend a screening interview with the Family Engagement Facilitator (generally this will take place each May for September start dates)
  4. Selection will be made based on both skills and interests of prospective new members as well as attempts  to ensure that the Network has a balance of members who are broadly representative of the diversity of children and families served by Niagara Children’s Centre
  5. The Family Engagement Facilitator will select candidates to serve on the FAN. The Family Engagement Facilitator will explore other channels for involvement, where an individual’s interest to serve on the FAN cannot be accommodated.  

Member Orientation and Ongoing Support

  1. New members will receive an orientation program that includes:
    1. The vision, mission, values, and structure of Niagara Children’s Centre
    2. Niagara Children’s Centre’s policies on Family Centred Care, Family Engagement and other related policies
    3. The FAN Terms of Reference and Rules of Engagement
    4. Training sessions to increase effectiveness as FAN member (e.g. communication, conflict resolution, etc)
    5. Training sessions to increase effectiveness as a family Co-Chair/ alternate family Co-Chair
  2. Members will sign a volunteer contract, a privacy and confidentiality agreement, and agreements to adhere to the FAN terms of reference and additional “Rules of Engagement”
  3. All members will receive ongoing support (information, training, resources) from the Family Engagement Facilitator as necessary to succeed in their roles

Accountability/ Reporting Relationships

The Family Advisory Newtwork reports to the Senior Management Team. The Senior Management Team will be provided with monthly updates from the FAN, receive an annual progress report, and approve the FAN work plan.


Meeting minutes will be taken and made available to Members and the Senior Management Team within 2 weeks. The minutes will also be stored on the Centre’s network for staff accessibility.  

Network accomplishments will be tracked and published widely.  Representative(s) from the Network will provide updates to Centre staff through the general staff meeting and employee bulletin. Updates will be provided to families and the general public through the Centre website, Shine Times (family newsletter), Social Media (Facebook, Twitter), and other media such as posters and electronic signage at the Centre.


The FAN terms of reference will be reviewed annually in June.


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