We have a philosophy that our services should affirm parents’ strengths and enable parents to obtain for themselves the services and supports their families need. We believe that professionals can give a family direction and ideas, but in order for families to become empowered, they need to be confident to explore and discover their own personal strengths. Parents need support from other parents so that they can carry on with their lives. Parents can help other parents develop positive self-esteem, pride in themselves and in their families, and the ability to seek the services and supports they need.
Parent to Parent contact can help families regain their sense of strength, of purpose and of independence. Through its network of volunteers, Parent to Parent of Virginia can offer:
- Emotional support and understanding;
- Coping skills and a model of positive family integration of children with disabilities;
- Information about services, support programs and advocacy organizations; and
- Introduction and access to people and groups who share their concerns and interests and who can help meet their needs, as well as those of their children.
The premise of Parent to Parent support is that veteran parents (called Parent Partners or Family Navigators) of children with disabilities are trained and matched as mentors to provide emotional, informational and systems navigational support to parents that have children with disabilities just learning of their diagnosis, moving to a new community, transitioning from one system to the next, or who just need help figuring out next steps.
Since 1985, Parent to Parent of Virginia has 1) provided training to parents on how to be a Parent Partner, 2) promoted best practice in Parent to Parent support, and 3) provided technical assistance to parents, agencies and organizations that want to start a local Parent to Parent program to support families in their community. Today, there are hundreds of trained Parent Partners and many local Parent to Parent programs in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
How Does it Work?
When a parent contacts Parent to Parent of Virginia seeking a parent to talk to, a referral to a resource, an IEP advocate, or other help, they are first directed to their local Parent to Parent program. If none exists, Parent to Parent of Virginia staff will use all of their connections to contact existing parent networks and disability organizations to locate a parent match or match the parent directly with Parent to Parent of Virginia staff.
When a parent or agency requests assistance with starting a local Parent to Parent program, they are requested to pull together a planning team consisted of committed parents, agency staff, and key community leaders if appropriate. This community team should review Parent to Parent of Virginia organizational development materials and schedule a meeting with staff to map out steps to implement their program.
Parent to Parent of Virginia provides training on a number of topics to parents, professionals, at conferences and local community events. In addition to training on the Parent to Parent model, other topics Parent to Parent of Virginia staff can provide training on include:
- Sharing your family story
- Person-centered planning
- Understanding health insurance
- The basics of Medicaid and Medicaid Waivers
- Preschool inclusion
- IFSP/IEP advocacy
- Supported decision-making and alternatives to guardianship
- Post school options (college, employment)
For more information, contact Parent to Parent of Virginia at PTPofVA@aol.com