Incorporated in 1992, United Advocates for Children and Families (UACF) was founded by a small group of inspirational and courageous women who desired to improve the lives of their children and other youth who had serious mental health conditions. The organization’s vision and mission has since focused on improving the quality of life for children and youth who have emotional, behavioral, and mental health challenges, and their families. During the past two decades we have effectively orchestrated both national and statewide programs in our efforts to transform the system of care to be responsive to the needs of children and youth with emotional, behavioral, and mental health disorders and their families in a family driven and youth guided manner.
Below is an overview of our current partnerships, services, and campaigns, which benefit California’s children and their mental health needs.
Alameda County Behavioral Healthcare Services - Family Partnership Program: We provide peer to peer support to families with children ages birth through high school who receive services through the Behavioral Healthcare System of Alameda County. Our Family Partners bring the perspective of a parent/caregiver and have experience raising children with behavioral and/or emotional challenges. Because they have learned to navigate the various systems themselves, Family Partners can stand side by side with caregivers as one who have been there before, empowering them by providing knowledge, education, and information, helping ensure caregivers are seen and their voices heard, and assisting them to obtain the resources and support needed so their children can thrive.
Alameda County Early Connections System of Care: Early Connections is a collaboration of family members, providers, and community members working together in a systems change effort designed to improve and promote wellness for young children and their families in Alameda County. UACF is working with Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services and First 5 of Alameda County to strengthen and sustain Alameda County’s system of care for children ages 0 – 5 with social, emotional, behavioral and related developmental concerns, and their families. Building on existing services and supports, Early Connections seeks to strengthen the system so that it is more family driven, accessible, integrated, and culturally and linguistically responsive.
California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) UACF, in conjunction with CalMHSA and its partners, initiate strategies to engage and empower local communities across the state to provide a supportive environment for consumers, families, youth and children by recognizing that mental health is integral in everyone’s wellbeing. Working with multiple statewide organizations which represent LGBTQ, TAY, Adult Consumer, Faith Based, Veterans, and culturally diverse populations, UACF can engage statewide communities at the local level in CalMHSA capacity building outreach strategies such as: Community Network Roundtables, Speaker Bureau training, Community Forums and much more.
Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) The UACF Institute represents the interest of family members, youth, and Parent Partners/advocates within the statewide mental health community. Our organization has a considerable stake in the success of the mission, overall goals, and transformative programs integral to the Mental Health Services Act. The MHSA has the potential to reach all UACF members and all other clients and family members who want and need mental health services in this state. It is important to activate our members’ engagement in the MHSA and to engage in effective communication with the diverse communities throughout our state, sharing important information about MHSA policies, processes, services and programs while collaborating on strategies to address system dysfunction and unmet needs.
Some examples of policy advocacy efforts by the UACF Institute include:
1.Emphasis on collaboration between local UACF affiliates and counties in planning, programs, service delivery, and evaluation to improve quality and access to services.
2.Encouraging and facilitating the utilization of effective peer and family provided services;
3.Increasing awareness of the need for peer and family member expertise through employment in the mental health system;
4.Continued emphasis on the reduction of stigma and discrimination of those with mental health conditions and their family members in all aspects of mental health policy and services
5.Public policy, trainings and orientations
6.Family member and youth participation and presentation at OAC meetings.
Riverside County Department of Mental Health UACF provides support to parents/youth in the sponsorship to County identified conference and trainings to educate, empower, and facilitate self/child advocacy for parents of youth with serious emotional/behavioral problems.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Through the Statewide Family Network (SFN), UACF, in collaboration with other SAMHSA funded SFN programs is attempting to transform the mental health service delivery system into one that is youth and family-driven by implementing strategies to produce changes to youth and family members, mental health care providers, and mental health care policy and program decision-makers. UACF’s program activities expand the voice, role, opportunity and impact of family and youth leaders in mental health system transformation and policy development; expand and promote training that will educate, equip and support family and youth leaders in service delivery and policy change; and build the capacity of community and regional coalitions and networks to work collaboratively on behalf of systems change for families, children and youth with serious emotional disturbance and their families.
Working Well Together (WWT) A collaborative project composed of three statewide client, family, parent/caregiver and mental health training and technical assistance organizations: NAMI California, United Advocates for Children and Families and the California Institute of Mental Health. Funded by the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), the primary goal of the WWT is to ensure public mental health agencies are prepared to recruit, hire, train, support and retain multicultural clients, family members and parents/caregivers as employees within the public mental health system.