History of North Carolina Families United
Like most family-run organizations, North Carolina Families United was created around a kitchen table by dedicated parents eager and frustrated to create policy change in schools, medical practices, and their communities that would not only help their children but help those that were to come that struggle with emotional and behavioral issues. One of the goals of the system of care grants that came into the state was to support and build family-run organizations. The first SOC grant called Pen Pal born one of the leaders of these first organizations (Sandra Spencer), who eventually became the powerful leader at the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health. The second round of SOC grants that NC received was the NC FACES grant. This furthered the cause of those parents around that kitchen table and funded the little start organization called NC Families United. One of those parents at that table that first night, (Pat Solomon) became the first director of NC Families United. Pat went on to promote and build the fledgling organization by co-chairing many policy changing committees like the North Carolina Collaborative for Children, Youth, and Families an organization consisting of representatives from the Division, the Department of Public Instruction, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Department of Health and other public child-serving agencies, Local Management Entities, multiple provider organizations and community agencies that have had some influence on policies formulated and a decision made on children’s health and well-being. Still another parent around that table was (Libby Jones) who is not only a co-founder but past board chair and currently an employee of NC Families United as well as a nationally recognized trainer and consultant on effective partnering with families.
With the end of CMHS-funded NC SOC grants, family organizations that grew out of the demonstration projects and that derived their principles from wraparound tenets lost a substantial amount of their funding. North Carolina Families United, Inc. (NCFU) managed to sustain itself with small grants from various sources that enabled it to hire a fellow family member, Gail M Cormier, who is credited with building up a provider and youth organization in New Hampshire as its first Executive Director. Gail Cormier was recognized as one of New Hampshire’s leaders in recognizing family and youth voice and providing leadership at the NH state policy level in areas of Youth Transition and Dropout Prevention for youth struggling with mental health issues. Since 2006 when Cormier was hired; the struggling group has grown from 35,000 a year annual budget to over $700,000.
In recognition of the valuable contribution that family organizations and NCFU have made to improve children’s mental health, the Mental Health Block Grant Planning Council made a recommendation in a report submitted to the federal funding source to support the project proposal submitted by NCFU to support family participation through peer-to-peer mentoring. State Plan 2003: Blueprint for Change – July 1, 2003, identified “family to family support” as the first of the domains in the “array of supports and services that are part of the integrated comprehensive provider network system for children and their families” (p. 119). The importance of participants and families in the delivery of services was reiterated in The State Strategic Plan 2007-2010.