Our History 

Allegheny County has a rich history of valuing the voice of families rearing children with mental health and emotional issues. In the mid-1980s, Allegheny County appointed its first Child and Adolescent Service System Program (CASSP) Coordinator, adopted the national CASSP principles and developed processes to foster interagency collaboration and family involvement. In the early 1990’s, family members were invited to participate in county planning committees and other activities. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Mental Health Association (MHA) provided support to families in need. Support groups and organizations were formed for family members and adult consumers to address specific needs.

In the late 1990s, Allegheny County obtained federal funding to develop and implement a System of Care in five communities for families raising a child with complex mental health issues. Through this initiative, it became clear that family involvement has a measurable and positive impact on child and family outcomes. As part of this initiative, fifteen family members representing the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of Allegheny County obtained input from over 300 additional family members and developed a strategic plan to establish an independent family organization to support and partner with families rearing children who have emotional and mental health needs in order to improve their quality of life.

With initial start-up funding from Allegheny County, Allegheny Family Network (AFN) was formed as a 501(c)(3) in 2004. The Board of Directors was recruited, bylaws were developed and an Executive Director was hired. It was determined that the majority of the Board members would be family members and that all AFN staff would be family members.

Since 2004, AFN has grown significantly, but its mission remains the same. The mental health and other child-serving systems are complex and can be difficult to navigate, and many families are frightened and lack basic knowledge of most mental health diagnoses. However, families are being supported in ways that were not available to most families in the past. All AFN staff are family members who have learned how to navigate the systems and advocate for their own children. As Family Support Partners, they use their experiences to support, inform, and empower families in need that are working to bring about positive change for their own children.