Voices of parent advocates within the systems of care model of service delivery

Michelle R. Munson, David Hussey, Chris Stormann, Teresa King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A growing body of research suggests that the "systems of care" approach to children's mental health can be effective in improving children's behavior and reducing stress on their families. What is less understood is how systems of care achieve these improvements. Through a series of focus groups, this study examined parent advocates, a key but understudied element of systems of care. Focus groups were conducted with parent advocates to examine how they themselves perceive their role within the systems of care model of service delivery. A research team identified several consistent themes from the focus group transcripts: unique role of parent advocates; similarities and differences between advocates and care managers; and, the value of having personal experience. For example, parent advocates saw themselves as navigators for families, helping them understand the system and access traditional and non-traditional services. Because of their own experiences with mental health services, parent advocates also believe they can communicate with family members in ways that professionals cannot. Results from this study can help strengthen the role of parent advocates by clarifying their contributions to service delivery. Future research should measure the extent to which parent advocates can produce the benefits identified in this study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)879-884
Number of pages6
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2009


  • Children's mental health
  • Parent advocates
  • Qualitative methods
  • Systems of care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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