406.551.1058
info@mtpeernetwork.org

Family Forum

Welcome! You are not Alone!

We are family members, or caregivers with children with special health care needs. It is our lived experience as a family member that set us apart. We promote recovery and wellness in our loved ones and ourselves through the concepts of hope, self-advocacy, education, peer support, personal responsibility and resiliency. We believe that these concepts are universal regardless of what recovery program you may chose. We are a member based organization with a board of directors and staff. Our main office is located in Ennis, Montana, our staff and board of directors are located across Montana.

Click here to find a support group.

What is a Family Peer Supporter?

A Family Peer Supporter is a parent or caregiver with lived experience raising a child with a behavioral health challenge and/or special healthcare need along with training who provides support to another parent or caregiver who is currently raising a child with a behavioral health challenge and/or special healthcare need. The Family Peer Supporter works directly with the parent or caregiver, not the child, providing emotional support, resources, and connection to community.

What does a Family Peer Supporter do?

  • engages in empathetic listening and promotes positive feelings towards utilizing services
  • provides flexible, community-based peer support services designed to promote wellness, empowerment, and resiliency
  • provides insight and hope
  • validates and normalizes feelings of fear and confusion through a shared lived experience
  • connects families with community resources and follows up to provide continued support
  • helps parents develop natural supports and positive approaches for addressing their family’s day to day needs
  • encourages parents to adopt and prioritize self care strategies for themselves

Types of Support

Emotional Support– provides connection from people who have “been there.”

Informational Support- includes providing connections to resources, making referrals, and giving information about the children’s health system.

Educational Support- focuses on helping you understand your child's needs, increasing your knowledge and skills, and guiding you in accessing your natural supports.

Concrete Support- includes things such as helping arrange childcare and transportation, finding support groups, and assistance in developing recovery plans.

Beth Ayers
Family Peer Support Lead
Children's Clinic
Billings
406.451.3087
Email Beth

Kayla Myers
Family Peer Supporter
Children's Clinic
Billings
406.613.8679
Email Kayla

Lea Wetzel
Family Peer Supporter
Benefis
Great Falls
406.224.3826
Email Lea

Upcoming Family Division Events

Become a member!

Membership is FREE

MPN Circle of Parents
Support Group

Other Montana Circle of Parents Support Groups

Yellowstone Valley Support Group

Third Wednesday of each month at 6:30pm
Church for the City
407 Wicks Lane, Billings

For parents and caregivers raising children with special health care needs and behavioral health challenges.

  • Children are welcome
  • Child care provided
  • Dinner Provided
  • Activities and Discussion

For more information, please contact Kayla (406-613-8679).

Benchmark Human Services

Children with special healthcare needs
Hill County, Havre
Amanda Christofferson
406-399-3309

Mineral County Health Dept

Postpartum Mental Health
Mineral, Superior
Jess Schaak
Cell: 406-499-1249
Office: 406-822-3564

Missoula Public School District

Children with special healthcare needs
Missoula County, Missoula
JJ Blood (James)
406-830-8311

Big Horn County Austism Support & Acceptance

Children with special healthcare needs
Big Horn County, Crow Indian Reservation
Luella Brien

Butte 4 C's

Children with special healthcare needs
Silver Bow, Butte
Travis Jackson
406-498-3125

Benchmark Human Services-Peace Place

Children with special healthcare needs
Cascade County, Great Falls
Amy Clure
406-781-9242

Alliance for Youth

Foster families & Parents in recovery
Cascade County, Great Falls
Isis Olsen

Early Childhood Coalition of Beaverhead County

Postpartum Mental Health
Beaverhead County, Dillon
Amber Lacey
720-352-9855

Task Force

The Family Peer Support Task Force and Steering Committee wrapped up with a final in-person meeting in September 2023 in Helena. The FPS Task Force met all goals and created for the profession of Family Peer Support in MT: Scope of Practice, Code of Ethics, Core Competencies, Training Standards, and Certification Requirements. A Family Peer Support Toolkit containing this work is in development. We are proud of the accomplishments and thankful to the members who dedicated their time.

But the work continues! MPN’s Family Action Committee is currently working towards certification and funding for Family Peer Support. If you are interested in being part of this important work for families, apply here.

Family Forum Blog

Posted on by Beth Ayers

Building Resilience

In the complex landscape of mental health, resilience stands out as a beacon of hope and strength. For children dealing with mental health challenges, cultivating resilience is key. Resilience equips children with the ability to navigate adversity, bounce back from setbacks, and thrive despite life’s inevitable challenges. As a mom of two fabulous children with mental health challenges, I often feel unequipped to help them navigate these challenges. If I had a magic wand and could, “poof,” free them from their mental health struggles, I would. I would give anything to take away their pain and my hurt that comes from watching my kids go through that pain. The following are tangible skills our kids can learn to increase resilience. Resilience in turn fosters their capacity for emotional well-being and success.

Posted on by Kayla Myers

Therapy Awareness

Forgiveness should be a journey, not a destination. What I mean by that is, whether we need to forgive ourselves, friends/family, or people who have wronged us in our lives, that can be a very difficult task. That physical pain we felt, the emotional toll we went through, and the way our bodies grasped those feelings and held onto them tight, can feel like something you will truly never get over. The old saying goes, “Time heals everything.” Well, it sure doesn’t. The reason I say this is because over time, life keeps throwing us curveballs, or as experts, unlike myself like to call it, trauma. It starts stacking inside of us and piling up like deskwork in our brains. When this happens, we are walking through life with unresolved hurt inside of us, and then turn around and project it onto others. So, the very things that hurt us in the beginning, we are now doing those same things to the ones we love, friends, our children, etc.

Posted on by Guest Author

Week of the Young Child

Week of the Young Child is a nationally recognized week to celebrate young children and those who care for them. The goal is to raise awareness of the importance of early childhood and the impact the early years have on future development. Montana has many people working on strengthening the early childhood network in our state.

Posted on by Beth Ayers

Our Recovery or Resiliency Story

Recovery or resiliency stories are powerful and important. They do a few things: 1. Connect us to the peers we are working with, 2. Give value to the unique perspective our lived experience brings to the table, 3. Show the importance and effectiveness of peer support. According to Montana’s Peer Network’s Peer Support Training, our recovery or resiliency story is “at the heart of the work we do in peer support. It is important that, as peer supporters, we understand our own process of recovery or resiliency. We need to be comfortable enough to speak about our own journey with others. Being able to describe our experience in a concise and hopeful manner is important. We want to tell our recovery [and resiliency] journey in a way that will inspire or provide a sense of hope to those still struggling.” A recovery or resiliency story “lets those you work with know you really do understand how difficult it can be. And how to overcome challenges. This is your greatest strength as a peer supporter.” Whether we are Behavioral Health Peer Supporters or Family Peer Supporters, it is important to share our story with a peer as it relates to them. They are the focus. Sharing our story is a useful tool to build connection and engage with your peer.

Posted on by Lea Wetzel

Nurturing Teen Mental Health

As a parent navigating the challenges of raising a teenager in today’s fast-paced world, I have come to appreciate the significance of prioritizing mental health. With World Teen Mental Wellness Day just around the corner on March 2, it is an opportune time to reflect on ways we can actively support our teens’ emotional well-being throughout the year. In a world where one in seven adolescents faces mental health challenges, fostering awareness and reducing stigma becomes paramount, especially given the impact of the global pandemic on our teens’ mental health.

Posted on by Kayla Myers

Revelations

I had a revelation recently and am still unsure how to correct this coping mechanism I acquired on my journey through life. I guess at this point acknowledging and identifying this within myself is currently the stage I am in. So, I thought this would be a good way to reflect through writing and see if any more revelations transpire my growth. “Carpe Diem” is a Latin term meaning “Seize the day”. This can inspire the idea of living in the moment or for today, so we aren’t wasting what little time we have on this earth worrying about what has already happened or what is to come.

Posted on by Beth Ayers

Friendships: When Your Child Has Mental Health Challenges

Maintaining friendships while raising children with mental health challenges has been hard for me. I have narrowed down my list of “friends,” keeping those who could support me without judgement through extremely challenging times. I have also come to appreciate friends who are willing to say the hard things out of love that I need to hear. I deeply appreciate others who share in my lived experience and just “get it.” My own comparison and self-pity have caused me to keep some friends at a distance. The stigma associated with mental illness kept me silent about what my family was going through. And the stress of caring for my child, seeking out services, attending multiple appointments weekly, and emotional exhaustion left me little time to devote to my friendships.

Posted on by Beth Ayers

Relationships

My husband and I had been married for 9 years when mental health began to serious affect our child’s health and our family’s life. Parenting in general can cause tension between couples. Being on the same page as each other, having similar parenting styles and values, agreeing on consequences, communicating effectively, and supporting each other are all things I have found important in raising children with my husband. And all things I have had to learn and work on. Every family has their struggles and goes through ups and downs. Through trying times, I was able to turn to my parents, friends, and other moms for support. When my difficulty became more than common parenting challenges but parenting a child with behavioral health needs, those relationships shifted and the way I needed to be supported changed. My husband and I had been going to marriage counseling. I had been attending Al-Anon meetings. I had made friends with other moms with kids in the same grade as mine. I was part of a church community and Sunday school class. My loving and supportive parents lived close by.

Posted on by Kayla Myers

A Different Perspective

In this article, I am going to give you a different shift in mindset with the upcoming “Prayers for Autism” awareness day. While I am sure the intention with this day was all in good nature, I have some thoughts…….

Posted on by Lea Wetzel

The Transformative Power of Storytelling

In the rich tapestry of Native American traditions, storytelling stands as a sacred gift, a conduit for the transfer of wisdom, healing, and positive energies. Our Blackfoot people have a deep-rooted connection to tradition. 

I share my life experiences and provide a compelling narrative as a Blackfoot woman in recovery. My story is not just a personal account; it’s a gift from Creator. There is a transformative power of sharing experiences, bridging the metaphysical and physical worlds by preserving true history for future generations. In the intricate dance between the past and the present, my journey unfolds, offering insights into the resilience that storytelling can foster.