“I remember being at a party and looking around at all of the children in one room dancing and all of the parents mingling and I thought, ‘I can’t relate to anybody here.’ It was such an isolating feeling being in a room full of parents who had children who were developing pretty typically and feeling like I was alone,” said Michelle, one of our Family Support Partners. If you are a parent raising a child who is struggling you probably know this feeling all too well. That gut-wrenching feeling of being alone in this seemingly uphill battle is something that our FSP’s want no mother, father, grandparent, or any other primary caregiver in Pennsylvania to ever feel again. We at PA Parent and Family Alliance want to introduce you to some of our FSPs, explain what they do, and show you the way they can help you and other families across the state.
Who are the FSPs
First and foremost our FSPs are parents. They are all parents who have raised or are raising a child(ren) who are struggling. That is what makes a Family Support Partner (FSP) so unique, they get it. They have been up at night worrying, they have had to advocate for their child to get the services they needed, and they know how helpless it feels when it seems like nobody listens to your input even though you know your child better than anybody in the world. These parents are able to pair their lived experiences and the vast training that they have completed to help connect families with resources and services that will be beneficial. Each of our FSPs comes from a different area of the state, they have vastly different backgrounds, and their children have a wide array of struggles.
“Some of the areas that I have lived experience in are ADHD, substance use disorder, mental health issues, and having to advocate for my child at school. I have had to go all the way to Harrisburg to handle issues with my child’s school and get them the education they needed and deserved. I also have experience with residential treatment facilities, inpatient treatment, and suicide attempts made by my child,” said FSP Cyndi. This shows the breadth of knowledge and experience that just one of our FSPs has. Another FSP, Tracy, mentioned that her experience overlaps Cyndi’s but also covers other areas, “I have two children who have mental health disorders. I have experience with ODD, DMD, ADHD, and bipolar disorder. Additionally, I have had guardianship of my grandson, who has autism, for a period of time. I have also had to fight my children’s school to recognize dyslexia and learning disabilities.”
“I think I offer good support because I am further ahead in my journey. I have found useful resources and evaluations for my children, I have learned to trust my gut and pushed to allow my kids, and other children in my school district to have access to quality education programs. We partner with parents so that they can learn from our experience and maybe help them avoid some anguish and wasted time,” said FSP Michelle. Our FSP’s have gone down that very long road, many of them feeling like they were in it alone. “I felt like I was completely alone until I shared my story with someone. Now that I think back to that party there probably was someone who related to me but neither of us talked about what we were going through,” said Michelle.
What can you call them for?
“Anything, just call us. It’s confidential. No question is a bad question. No judgment, pick up the phone and ask us anything, there is nothing too big or too small,” said FSP Tracy. You may call us for a unique reason but one thing you will get out of any conversation with our FSPs is that you are far from alone. A parent who is in the thick of raising a child with a suspected or new diagnosis often has that immense feeling of isolation. They may feel like their friends and family don't get them and other parents aren't having the same struggles that they do. "Life-changing. It definitely would have been," said Michelle when asked what it would have meant to her to have a parent who had been in her shoes. We got feedback from a parent who worked with one of our FSPs and they said;
"Talking with the Family Support Partner helped me to realize that there are many parents like me that struggle every day to care for their children with mental health challenges. Navigating the system(s) can be overwhelming alone, not to mention all the additional challenges you face when dealing with a child with mental health issues. Feeling part of a network of people just like yourself helped me to know that I'm not alone and raising a child takes a village and one with mental health challenges takes a city!! Sometimes you just need someone to help you stand back up."
Parents call us for help navigating mental and behavioral health systems. There really are so many resources at your fingertips, you just may not know it. Our FSPs are up to date on resources from around the state that provide children and families with amazing and essential services, but many people don’t even know where to look. That's where we come in. Your FSP can take a look at your needs and help you connect with people who are willing and eager to help you get what can help. A parent that has worked with one of our FSPs said;
"I am a single parent who works full time. I reached out to the PA Parent and Family Alliance to help search for providers in my area to help support my child after she was discharged from a residential treatment facility. There were a number of services that needed to be set up along with appointments and insurance calls. This is very time-consuming and I knew I needed some help. I had been through this before and had not reached out to anyone for help the first time and became quickly overwhelmed. So this time I was a bit more prepared and had done a lot of research while my daughter was away. I came across the PA Parent and Family Alliance website and decided to ask for their assistance. They were prompt in responding to me and very helpful with searching for the provider that I asked for. Also being able to talk to someone who "gets it" can be very powerful invalidating the overwhelming feelings that you have when living in a world with someone that struggles with their mental health. I am very glad I reached out and would not hesitate to contact them again if the need arises."
The needs of families who are raising a child who is struggling are unique, and so are the lived experiences of our FSPs. From adoptive parents to parents of adult children, to experience supporting and uplifting LGBTQIA+ youth - they have been through a lot and are eager to help parents who have similar struggles.
Who can use this service?
We know as well as you do that parenting never stops. Just because your child enters the ages of adulthood does not mean that your job is done. We at the Parent Alliance will help any parent in PA, with a child of any age. Yes, even our 'children' 30, 40 and older! As we said, no problem is too small, no issue is too big. Even if you're unsure, give us a call and let us help you or connect you with someone who can.
We are here for you when you need us!
Reach us on our Parent Support Line at 888-273-2361 or online by visiting:
The service is FREE and CONFIDENTIAL