Parents need support during these difficult times | #specialneeds | #kids

A message from Southwest Counseling Solutions to parents during the COVID-19 pandemic.Photo: Priscilla Du Preez

COVID-19 has impacted individuals and families around the world, forcing many working parents to now become virtual, homeschooling teachers. Parent support is crucial now more than ever, especially for those parents whose children may have an intellectual or developmental disability such as autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, epilepsy or fetal alcohol syndrome.

Southwest Counseling Solutions, one of 400 providers to the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network (DWIHN), offers the Parent Support Partner (PSP) service to parents of children receiving mental health services. The PSP service is a peer-to-peer service. PSPs are parents and/or primary caregivers of a child with mental health or developmental challenges.

The purpose of the PSP service is to increase family involvement, voice and engagement within the mental health treatment process and to equip parents with the skills necessary to address the challenges of raising a youth with special needs. The goal is to improve outcomes for those that have serious emotional disturbance (SED) and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD).

“Parents and caregivers appreciate working with a peer that has ‘been there’ because they feel that someone ‘gets it’ without judgment, it helps reduce isolation,” said Parent Involvement Manager Debora Martinez.

Supports provided to a family by a PSP will focus on increasing confidence as they find their voice when partnering with service providers, and will empower the parent to develop sustainable, natural support networks after formal service delivery has ended. PSPs serving as an equal member of the treatment team assist in identifying goals within the Family Centered Plan that will support the parent to find their voice and confidence in parenting a child with SED and/or I/DD.

Parent Support Partners enhance the therapeutic process by increasing engagement expanding and increasing skills, knowledge and abilities so they can better partner with service providers. Their role can include:

Providing peer-delivered support to parents/primary caregivers of children and youth with SED/IDD, including autism, in the public mental health system

Facilitating access to services

Providing a source of credible information

Demonstrating effective communication & collaboration

Assisting with systems navigation

Working individually with families whose children are receiving Community Mental Health services and who need additional supports and skill building to partner with service providers

Building and nurturing relationships with the family

Supporting parents’ and family members’ participation in family-driven practices, person centered planning and in treatment, services and supports

Using their own experience and additional information to support parents as they strive to better their understanding of their child’s diagnosis, supports and services available

Teaming with others providing services and supports

Participating in family-driven practice, person centered-planning process and assists in development of goals related to Parent to Parent support in the plan of service

Encouraging the family to ask questions so they can make informed decisions on what is best for their child and family

Providing support and encouragement for parents/family members to speak for themselves

Providing education and training to and assist families in preparing for meetings regarding their children

Providing hope through strategic sharing of lived experience

Through this service, families can expect an improved mental health outcome, increased engagement and retention in treatment, decreased caregiver stress, decreased costly interventions, i.e. out of home placements, and an increase in family and youth involvement.

For more information on Parent Support Partners, please contact the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network at 1-800-241-4949 or Family Alliance for Change through Southwest Solutions at 313-297-2975.

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