Elevating Family Leader Compensation from Practice to Policy
December 2018

Lisa Maynes
Chair, Family and Youth Leadership Committee
Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs

Michelle Jarvis
Specialist, Family Engagement and Leadership Development
Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs


Families are critical to maternal and child health (MCH) work and, therefore, to the work of the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP). Ultimately, families are the target audience for every product, program, and service we provide, so the most successful efforts will include families in the inception, design, and evolution of programs and services. Only with their participation can we truly know if we are helping, effective, or delivering what is necessary to meet their needs.

One important way to support family engagement is to financially compensate them for the time they spend working with us. To their credit, many organizations in the health field do provide such compensation. AMCHP has long been one of them, but we recently realized that that practice was missing something: a formal, institutionalized policy that defines what that compensation is and how it is calculated. We’d like to share why and how we created such a policy.

Organizations Benefit from Family Engagement

There are many benefits to engaging family leaders in the work that we do at AMCHP. Benefits identified by our members include: increased awareness and understanding of family issues and needs, increased family professional partnership and communication, and improved planning and policies resulting in services more directly responsive to family needs. Families who feel a stronger partnership are more available to participate in training, public awareness, and policy development. They engage with evaluating program goals, objectives, performance measures, and show increased understanding of programs and issues identified by the legislature, state officials, and the general public.

Becoming an active family leader is an exercise in balance. Juggling the demanding needs of their family as well as their own care, family leaders are further inspired to provide their voice to make a stronger system. As part of efforts to continue to engage family leaders, there is a responsibility to respect and help support their unique needs regarding participation.

At AMCHP that support takes several forms: We have a family leader on staff, as board members, and as officially designated family delegates through the memberships of their state agencies, , and we have a Family and Youth Leadership Committee (FYLC). AMCHP has long offered various types of support to family leaders for their time, including child care stipends, travel reimbursement, per diem allocations, and professional stipends.

We came to recognize, however, that family leaders need more support to encourage and sustain their involvement.

How to Strengthen Support

Because AMCHP is a nonprofit organization, we reached out to  family organizations and organizations that engage families in their work in early 2016 to understand their policies on engaging families. At that time, these organizations did not have official policies on compensating family representatives specifically for their time. However, many organizations that engage families reported that consistently compensating family leaders in some way needs to be a priority.

In September 2016 AMCHP’s FYLC recommended, based on its family engagement survey, that AMCHP expand the practice of compensating family leaders for their participation as well as develop and institutionalize organizational policy to formalize this practice. Because AMCHP is a national leader in maternal and child health (MCH) and has the privilege of establishing best practices through leading by example, it was further recommended that compensation to family leaders be set at the highest level of what some states were already implementing. Over the remainder of 2016 and through June of 2017, FYLC leadership worked with AMCHP’s Governance Committee to craft a model policy on compensating the family leaders engaged in AMCHP work.

The policy was approved by AMCHP’s board of directors in June 2017. The policy sets payment levels based on federal rates as well as the length of time that family representatives participate in a particular engagement opportunity (such as a set number of hours or all day). Based on our research and outreach, the adoption of the Family Leader Compensation Policy made AMCHP the first national organization to have such a policy. (If you know of such a policy at another organization, please send it to mjarvis@amchp.org so we can cite it.)

Since the policy’s adoption, AMCHP staff have received training and support on how to apply it and, as part of our culture of quality improvement, we continue to look for ways to improve and strengthen the policy. Most importantly, AMCHP’s family leader partners will be appropriately compensated for their unique expertise and will have a consistent experience with us.