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E6-1: The Family Support Program & Power of Peer-Based Support

New Path Youth & Family Services will present our Family Support Program (FSP) evaluation findings and share what we’ve learned about launching a family support program during a pandemic, the service impact on families, clinicians, agency family engagement practices and overall workplace culture.

We will discuss:

  1. The value of peer-based support through the role of the Family Support Worker (FSW)
  2. How the FSP evaluation tools are used to identify caregiver stressors, strengths, needs, and utilized as a visual map for families of goals achieved, goals in development and as a post FSP resource
  3. How we navigated challenges with a lengthy FSP waitlist and brought efficiencies with additional caregiver support
  4. Our challenges and potential solutions for post-grant program sustainability.

Our goal is to provide participants with the opportunity to learn more about the power of peer-based support and the evidence that reinforces that trained family members with lived experience navigating the child and youth mental health and related systems can assist other families to feel emotionally supported, experience reduced stress and find other community and government resources that are helpful to meet the individual needs of the entire family.


Tanya Alfieri (she/her) is passionate about partnering with families to build programs, services and systems that are reflective and responsive to their needs. As the supervisor of the Family Support Program at New Path Youth & Family Services, she understands the impact that peer support, access to resources and opportunities to learn and lead can play in developing caregiver capacity. Tanya is truly thankful for the warm introduction and welcome to peer-based support that she received in her own family’s mental health journey many years ago, that sparked a lifelong enthusiasm for learning from those who travel a similar road and those etching their own path. She believes in meaning, purpose and perspective and is forever grateful to her family and this work which has breathed this into her life.

Lisa Cluett (she/her) is the Director of Services at New Path Youth and Family Services, she values dedication, service, and is relentless in her pursuit of excellence.  Lisa has devoted her career to working in the field of children’s mental health for over two decades and maintains an independent private practice. Much of her work has been centered around youth & family engagement; Lisa brings unique perspectives gained from her work as a provincial Youth Engagement trainer, as well as developing; a web-based resource for coaches, and athletes to support mental wellness, and early intervention for better performance in sport & life.

Shannon McNally (she/her) is in her third year as part of the Family Support Program, at New Path Youth and Family Services. As a Family Support Worker, Shannon supports and collaborates with a diverse group of caregivers throughout Simcoe County, which can include single parent and blended families, as well as kinship and grandparent guardians. Shannon has a diploma in Therapeutic Recreation from Canadore College and is planning to complete her final year of a B.A. in Gender Studies and Social Justice at Trent University. In her role as a Family Support Worker, Shannon uses her own lived experience as a parent of a neurodivergent child, to help family members navigate services and resources, vital to supporting families and children. Awareness of provincial and federal programs and connecting with community stakeholders is Shannon’s favorite part of the role—leading to increased capacity and self-advocacy for families and children.

Brenda Powling (she/her) is passionate about her role as a Family Support Worker at New Path Youth and Family Services.  Having raised 4 children, two with significant mental health challenges, she aims to be the support she knows would have been beneficial for her own family to have had while navigating system barriers.  She is a strong advocate for people who find themselves living in the margins and has a background supporting people who struggle with addiction, houselessness and mental illness.  She is fueled by a deep faith, a hope in brighter futures, spending time in nature, enjoying time with her husband, children and recently her grandbabies.  As a Family Support Worker, she works to identify the strengths that each family already possesses.  She enjoys partnering with caregivers to find paths that connect to community resources and connection and celebrates alongside them when capacity building happens!



E6-2: Family Support Programs: Transforming Childhood Mental Health and Addressing Disparities

In this abstract, we delve into the intricate interplay between social determinants of health, disparities in childhood mental health, and the profound transformative impact of evidence-based programs such as the Family Support Fund. By recognizing and effectively addressing the challenges linked to socioeconomic factors, access to care, and disparities in resource allocation, these programs showcase their potential to significantly enhance mental health outcomes among children and youth.

Social determinants of health encompass a range of factors, including socioeconomic status, education, neighborhood conditions, and access to resources. These determinants play a pivotal role in shaping the mental health outcomes of children and adolescents. By understanding the influence of these determinants, we can gain insight into the root causes of disparities in childhood mental health.

Disparities in childhood mental health highlight the unequal distribution of mental health conditions, access to care, and treatment outcomes among different populations. Factors such as poverty, discrimination, limited access to mental health services, and cultural barriers contribute to these disparities. Addressing these disparities requires a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach that goes beyond traditional treatment methods.

Evidence-based programs like the Family Support Fund provide a framework for addressing the challenges associated with social determinants and disparities in childhood mental health. These programs are designed to empower individuals and families by offering a wide range of support services, including financial assistance, counseling, advocacy, and community resources.


Adva Budin-Mercer is a dynamic professional with 16 years of experience in pediatric rehabilitation. With a genuine passion for empowering individuals and their families, as well as a strong commitment to education, inclusion, and equity, Adva brings a wealth of experience and expertise to her role. Drawing from her extensive background in social services and client support within the pediatric rehab field, Adva plays a pivotal role in coordinating funding resources and facilitating access to essential services for clients and their families.

Adva’s passion for education, inclusion, and equity is a driving force in her work. She recognizes the importance of creating a supportive and inclusive environment where all individuals, regardless of their background or abilities, have equal opportunities to thrive. By embracing the principles of equity and actively promoting inclusive practices, Adva advocates for the rights and needs of diverse individuals and their families within the pediatric rehabilitation setting.

Cheryl Peters is a passionate advocate for client and family integrated care at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. Her journey began when her youngest daughter was diagnosed with Spastic Diplegic Cerebral Palsy, which led her to become an active member of the Holland Bloorview Family Leadership team in January 2010. Over the past 11 years, Cheryl has been instrumental in expanding her role to include family as faculty and family mentor, under the Family Leadership team.

Cheryl has a deep understanding of the healthcare system and the importance of family-centered care. She has also experienced the healthcare system as a parent firsthand, as her daughter Jillian has been an outpatient client at Holland Bloorview since 2009 and had a 4-month long inpatient stay as well. With her personal and professional experience, Cheryl brings a unique perspective to the team, and her contributions have made a significant impact on the lives of clients and families.

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