Why Family Councils Started
Ontario’s Family Councils’ Program, now Family Councils Ontario, began in 1998 as a Trillium Foundation funded project in response to a need identified by Concerned Friends of Ontario Citizens in Care Facilities. Families, as primary caregivers, were asking for support and information on a wide range of topics once their family member became a resident of a long-term care home.
In the late 1990s, it became obvious that increasing numbers of residents were living with some form of dementia and needed support to help speak for themselves. For residents unable to speak for themselves, families became their voices, advocates, and partners with the long-term care home staff. The changes in the resident population and role of family caregivers led to the need to develop autonomous Family Councils where families could come together and discuss their challenges, find support for their changing caregiver role, and explore ways to improve the life of residents living in long-term care homes.
Family Councils' Program was a program of The Self Help Resource Center from 1998-2015. The program grew from a pilot project funded by an Ontario Trillium Foundation Grant in 1998 into a program funded by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC) in 2004. In 2015, the program became Family Councils Ontario, an independent charitable nonprofit that continues to be funded by the Ontario government.
In 2010, we celebrated the first-ever Family Council Day that has now grown into Family Council Week, an annual week-long celebration of the enormous contribution Family Councils make to long-term care.
2013 was the inaugural year of the Family Council Member of the Year award. Awarded yearly since, this award recognizes the contributions of an outstanding Family Council member.
2013 also marked our first ever province-wide Family Council conference! ‘Family Councils Connect: Building Bridges!’ was held to provide Family Council members and Staff Assistants with information on developments in long-term care, Family Council best practices and skills for success, plus opportunities for networking. Since then, our biennial conference has become our signature event, bringing together families, LTC home staff, and sector stakeholders from across Ontario for two days of support, learning, and networking. Stay tuned for information on our 2021 event!
In January 2015, Family Councils Program launched into independence as Family Councils of Ontario, a charitable, non-profit provincial organization.
In 2018, the Ministry of Long-Term Care increased our operating budget, allowing us to create two new staff positions designed to increase our capacity to serve Family Council members and LTC home staff.
Where we are today
Today, Family Councils Ontario works with over 500 Family Councils and 2500 Family Council members and LTC home staff across Ontario. We have established strong collaborative relationships with community and government stakeholders. We are continually sought out for advice and input by the Ontario government and other stakeholders within the long-term care system. Our goal is to bring the many voices of families to each table we sit at and we continually seek input and advice from Councils across the province.
Family Councils Ontario offers support to Councils and home staff through our many educational events, consultations, resources, and conferences. Please spend some time on this site and see how FCO can be a resource for you and your Council. Family Councils in Ontario are an important strong voice that can help improve the quality of life for those living in long-term care!