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CAHMI plans to establish a Community and Family Engagement Research Network (C-FERN) and invite research partners as well as new interested research teams to collaborate to specify a research agenda related to advancing engagement-based, whole child, whole family, whole community, integrated, and equity focused approaches to promoting the early and lifelong health of children, families, and communities.

The purpose of the Community and Family Engagement Research Network (C-FERN) is to create a sustainable, interdisciplinary network to build evidence for effective family and community engagement, and drive the implementation of evidence-based practices for engagement in early childhood healthcare delivery. The network will also work towards expanding access and fostering greater participation in early childhood healthcare among traditionally underserved and disenfranchised families.


C-FERN is sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).


The C-FERN’s Focus

From Fall 2021 to Summer 2024, we would consider this effort a success if we continuously establish:

  • A strategic agenda embraced by family and community engagement stakeholders, which leverages existing opportunities and addresses key gaps to ensure effective family and community engagement, and guides the development and harmonization of measures and tools across programs and initiatives
  • An applied network, which provides the platform and opportunities for interdisciplinary experts who represent different components of family and community engagement to connect and develop innovative, funded engagement initiatives
  • Actionable tools, which support early child health clinicians in their knowledge and use of family and community engagement tools in priority areas, and application of tools for integrated healthcare delivery systems

Why do we need a Community and Family Engagement Research Network?

Tested and validated tools for engaging families, and measuring effective engagement can be used to monitor early child and family health and wellbeing, assess and improve healthcare performance, build knowledge, evaluate healthcare quality improvement programs, and justify funding across early childhood programs at the local, state, and national level. The US enjoys an impressive array of resources and information pertinent to the improvement of community and family engagement in public health programs and services. However, healthcare providers, payers and public health practitioners are still faced with a great deal of variation in community and family engagement tools and measurements, often resulting in redundant efforts and non-comparable outcomes across programs.

Given the gaps in current community and family engagement strategies and measurements, it is vital that existing, high-quality engagement tools be shared across stakeholders to ensure alignment across programs and initiatives.


What resources are available now?

As the CAHMI assumes leadership for the C-FERN, we are pleased to present tested and validated tools for family engagement in early child health services:

  • The Cycle of Engagement (COE) is a model for engaging families in an ongoing, collaborative way to measure and improve the quality and outcomes of care for children using a personalized approach based on guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics and evidence-based practices.
  • The COE tools are web-based family-centered tools, and consists of the following:
    • Well Visit Planner (WVP) is an online tool parents complete prior to each well-child visit (4 months- 6 years) to identify needs and priorities tailored to their child’s age.
    • Online Promoting Healthy Development Survey (Online PHDS) is a post-visit survey completed by patents and providers to assess whether young children (3 months – 6 years) are receiving nationally recommended preventive and developmental services.
    • CARE_PATH for Kids (CPK) model is a three-step whole child approach to engage families and providers in a comprehensive assessment of a family’s strengths, needs, visions, priorities and goals to inform the development of a shared plan of care for children 0 - 18 years.