Refer a Family (for professionals)

Did you know that there is a service at the Alberta Children's Hospital that helps to connect families to other families who have personal experience with a child's health condition or disability?

Family to Family Connections has trained Supportive Family Volunteers who provide one to one peer support to families experiencing a new diagnosis, an upcoming procedure, or other event related to a child's health concern or disability. Our volunteers are parents and past patients who are available to listen, share their experiences, and refer people to information and resources. They do not give medical advice.

You are one of our best links to families. Most families come to Family to Family Connections because a professional has explained what we do and passed on the contact information. We need you to let families know they can connect with other families who have been there.

How do I refer a family to Family to Family Connections?

A formal referral isn't required. You can tell families about Family to Family Connections and encourage them to call or email to set up a connection. We have brochures that you can hand out with our contact information.

To request copies of our brochure, please email the Family to Family Connections Coordinator at or call 403-955-2456.

With a family's permission, you can also contact us directly with their contact information. We will follow up with the family.

What are the benefits of connecting families to Family to Family Connections?

Peer support compliments the services and support you provide to your patient/client. Talking to another family provides unique benefits:

  • A sense of hope that others have learned to cope and thrive
  • An inside view of the day to day experiences of living with a child's health condition or disability
  • A knowledge of strategies and resources that have worked for others
  • A greater confidence in participating in care
  • A comfort that you are not alone

What checks and balances are in place so I can be confident in referring a family?

Family to Family Connections looks after the details to provide meaningful, safe connections for family members.

  • Every volunteer participates in a screening interview to determine their suitability for the role.
  • Volunteers participate in a 5 hour orientation to the role that covers key skills and addresses boundary issues. They learn to refer people back to medical professionals when asked for medical advice.
  • Volunteers are registered with Volunteer Resources at the Alberta Children's Hospital. They have completed a police check and reference check and verified that their immunizations are up to date. They also sign the AHS Confidentially Agreement.
  • Volunteers also have to complete an Alberta Children and Youth Services Intervention Record Check.
  • Volunteers and the requesting families sign a participation consent form which gives permission for the Coordinator to discuss basic health information to set up the connection and ensures that AHS is not liable if they chose to meet in person outside of AHS property.
  • Every connection is monitored by the Coordinator who is always available to address issues that arise and to provide ongoing support.
  • Regular networking and learning opportunities are offered to volunteers so they can continue to develop their skills and support each other in their role

How else can I partner with Family to Family Connections?

  1. Help us find Supportive Family Volunteers

    We are looking for volunteers who have experience with their child's health concerns or youth/young adults who are comfortable supporting others with similar needs. They should have good communication skills, be willing to share their own experiences and listen to the stories of others, and be knowledgeable about resources.

  2. Partner with us to involve a Supportive Family Volunteer in the work you do with families.

    The stories of our volunteers provide encouragement and hope to others. We partner with other programs and services to bring these stories to families.

    Here are some examples of these partnerships:
    • Parents of babies in the NICU at Foothills Hospital are invited to regular Family Teas to meet Supportive Family Volunteers who had a child in the NICU and to share their experiences.

      NICU families need a range of support and the Family Tea Time allows the NICU to offer a different format of support that facilitates family-centered care. There is significant value in NICU parents connecting with a trained volunteer who has "been there, done that," whether it be for a single session, or over the course of the weeks/months of their NICU journey.

      - Lori Fisher, Social Worker, NICU Foothills
    • A volunteer parent whose child has autism tells her story to parents whose child has a recent diagnosis as part of parent information nights at the Child Development Centre.
    • Young adult volunteers offer their personal experience at Health Passport workshops as part of the Well On Your Way Transition work at the Alberta Children's Hospital.