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.

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
Email Beth

Erin Faulkner
Family Peer Supporter
Shodair Children's Hospital
Email Erin

Kayla Myers
Family Peer Supporter
Children's Clinic
Email Kayla

Become a member!

Membership is FREE!

Task Force

Montana currently has many organizations and individuals providing Family Peer Support. However, we often work separately and aren’t connected to each other. Montana also does not have certification or required training for Family Peer Supporters. In addition, our work is not billable by Medicaid or private health insurance. The purpose of the Family Peer Support Task Force is to identify the needs and develop the fundamental elements necessary to grow and maintain a sustainable Family Peer Support workforce in Montana. Unique to this Task Force, we are bringing together families and providers of children with all special healthcare needs, including behavioral.

Goals of the Family Peer Support Task Force

  • Define Family Peer Support scope of practice and code of ethics
  • Develop Family Peer Support core competencies and training standards
  • Determine CEU’s and clinical supervision

Steering Committee

The purpose of the Family Peer Support Steering Committee is to take the information developed in the Task Force and make final decisions recommendations made by the Task Force.

The Steering Committee meeting every 2nd Wednesday immediately following the Task Force meeting and the 4th Wednesday of every month at noon.

Action Committee

The Family Supporter Committee is working toward the development of a Family Peer Supporter workforce and certification process to support those with children in the behavioral health system in Montana.

Read more about the family committee here.

Family Forum Events

Montana Circle of Parents
Support Groups

Benchmark Human Services

Children with special healthcare needs
Hill County, Havre
Amanda Christofferson

Butte 4 C's

Children with special healthcare needs
Silver Bow, Butte
Travis Jackson

Mineral County Health Dept

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

Benchmark Human Services-Peace Place

Children with special healthcare needs
Cascade County, Great Falls
Amy Clure


Missoula Public School District

Children with special healthcare needs
Missoula County, Missoula
JJ Blood (James)

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

Big Horn County Austism Support & Acceptance

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

Family Forum Blog

Posted on by Erin Faulkner

Special Education:  My Perspective

In honor of National Special Education Day on December 2nd, I am sharing my personal story in the hopes of dispelling stereotypes of what Special Education services means for students now and for their future.  Growing up, and even 18 years ago when my daughter started receiving special education services, I would hear terms like “short bus” or “sped kids” which referred to students who received special education services or had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  Though I don’t hear these terms as much today, I know they still exist and the negative attitude towards these students still exists.

Posted on by Erin Faulkner

A Miracle in Recovery

This story is very close to my heart. Anna is my sister. I have seen her struggle since her teenage years. At the heart of her struggles, and only discovered in recent years, is her diagnosis of several mental health challenges. She was also adopted from South Africa as a toddler and has struggled with feelings of abandonment and attachment her whole life. Anna has fought family and friends in search of what would make her feel better, feel more. It has challenged our family as she has lost battles in the past.

Posted on by Jobyna McCarthy

The Experience of Being a Parent of Preemies

I gave birth to 2 preemies; my second preemie Quinn, now 17-years old, was born at 28 weeks gestation (or 2 months early!), weighing 2 pounds, 10.7 ounces. For unknown reasons, I went into preterm labor which couldn’t be stopped, and was sent into an emergency C-section due to a prolapsed umbilical cord. Quinn was intubated immediately, but after only a day, was breathing on his own.  However, at one week old, and only weighing 3 pounds, he underwent surgery, one very common to premature infants called patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) ligation. This duct in their heart closes in full term infants, but often stays open in preemies.

Posted on by Erin Faulkner

A Personal Gratitude Challenge

As I typically do when writing on a topic, I looked for definitions and synonyms to make sure that my readers and I are on the same page. Gratitude is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”. I like those words: thankful, appreciation, kindness. I think it is easy to say thank you, but more powerful to show appreciation and kindness. It is similar to how saying sorry is just a word, but an apology says why and how you will make it better. It carries more weight.

Posted on by Kayla Myers

Sensoring Processing Disorder

by Kayla Myers, Family Peer SupporterOctober 31, 2023Sensory Processing Disorder was something I was very naive to before having a child diagnosed with Autism. There are 1 in 20 people affected by this every day. Someone living with SPD might be obvious to spot (like my son), while others, you might never know unless you…

Posted on by OpenAI

Sensory Processing Disorders

Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD) are a complex and often misunderstood set of conditions that affect how individuals perceive and respond to sensory stimuli from their environment. These disorders can have a profound impact on a person’s daily life, from their ability to interact with others to their emotional well-being. While much progress has been made in understanding SPD in recent years, there is still much to learn about its causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

Posted on by Kayla Myers

CHOOO-CHOOO, ADHD Mama Coming Through

As a Mama of two boys and a bonus girl, I wanted to write a letter to them and express myself in a way I haven’t before. Having a late diagnosis of ADHD has truly changed my life for the better. Now that I know more about the ways it affects my day to day, how it impacts those around me, and although I have implemented tools to help with the things that are easy for everyone else but seem foreign to me, I always want to be better, for me, but mostly them.

Posted on by Erin Faulkner

It’s All Relative: A Family Story of Depression

As a child, I viewed my mother’s depression in very simplistic terms.  She was moody, unreasonable, inconsistent and easily irritated. As I look back and “psychoanalyze”, I look at her depression as more of an empty hole.  My mother did an amazing job at giving us great life experiences and adventures and a happy life.  We went on vacations almost yearly.  As a single mom, she couldn’t afford big trips by plane, so it was car trips.  We went to Wisconsin to visit family, California to go to Disneyland, Calgary and Edmonton and the Black Hills for an annual reunion with the Wisconsin family.  Home was filled with laughter during game nights and movie nights.  In addition to giving us these experiences, I wonder if these things filled the hole, so that she wasn’t left feeling empty. 

Posted on by Beth Ayers

Are You a Parent at Increased Risk for Depression?

I am a mom of two, now adult, children with behavioral health challenges and I work as a Family Peer Supporter helping other parents currently raising children with special healthcare needs including behavioral health. As a Family Peer Supporter, I get to walk beside families and help lift their burden by listening and connecting through a shared lived experience. Parenting is stressful in and of itself. It’s a full-time job with no training manual. Parents don’t clock in and clock out. They don’t get to call in sick. And a literal life depends on how well you do! Like most moms, I envisioned the future for my children including friends, activities, school, summer camp, growing up, high school dances, graduation, college, marriage, children of their own, and so on.

Posted on by Kayla Myers

The Greatest Mistake

I am going to try something new with this month’s theme: recovery. Honesty is admirable, the more I dive into the depths of my mental health recovery journey, I know honesty will be the key that I didn’t have in my pocket the first time around. I had some old triggers resurface for me and new obstacles present themselves the last couple weeks. Here are my take aways……