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.
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
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.
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.
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I am so grateful to be a mother. The ten years it took to become pregnant did not prepare me for the journey of motherhood. Just because having a baby is biological does not mean it is natural. Having my daughter activated a wound in me that had been dormant for many years; I would not fully understand this rugged process until much later. The medical community calls this phenomenon postpartum depression. I was attempting to maintain a belief that having a baby would fix me; it did, but not in the way I expected.
The day I became a mom to my son was the greatest day of my life. While I was pregnant and in those first months of being his mom, I don’t ever remember doubting my abilities. I knew I would try every day to be the mom my kids needed. It is interesting now looking back, I can point out where I let all my doubts, fears, and unhealed trauma, creep in and steal the precious moments I had with my boys.
For this month’s topic, “Parenting in Recovery”, I once again had to turn to my internet friend, Google. There are many kinds of recovery. Recovery from substance abuse or other addictions. Recovery from acute mental health events. Recovery from physical injuries. What does recovery mean for me? Google defines recovery as “a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength” and “the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.” That last word, lost, is what I connected with. For many parents of children with special health care needs or behavioral health challenges, the expectation of what we envisioned for our lives and for our children is gone or changed, in a sense – lost.
I grew up between Helena and Great Falls, after my parents split, when I was around 3, and my brother was 9. I got the gift of seeing two very different parenting skills. My mom hovered and made sure I did what I was supposed to, and when I didn’t, there were consequences. My dad was very trusting and comforting, but very enabling. They both were amazing, and did the best with what they had, but I had one person in my life that gave me consistency, and that was my stepdad. My mom remarried when I was 7 years old. He was a teacher and coach in this community for over 50 years, and treated me and all my family, as if we were blood. What he was one day, was what he was the next, and when he said he would do something, he did it, and he did it with integrity.
I began going to Al-Anon because a family member’s alcoholism was affecting my life. They had found sobriety, but their behaviors still bothered me. The only way I knew to deal with the situation was control. The more I tried to control what I couldn’t, the worse the relationship got. My thought was, “If they would change, everything would get better.” The problem was they weren’t changing, no matter how hard I tried! The tools I learned in Al-Anon and the recovery I experienced prepared me for the challenges I faced as a parent.
The role of being a parent again, in recovery, has been such a blessing! I missed so much of my kids’ lives due to active addiction and I never thought I would have the opportunity to raise children again. I am so grateful I have a second chance at being a mom, of having the honor to help raise my partner’s now young teenagers. However, parenting teenagers isn’t particularly easy for anyone. Add to that us both being in recovery, my current mental health journey, both of our kids having behavioral health challenges, and us being a lesbian couple, and it makes the dynamics even more complex. As we navigate the path of parenthood and recovery together, it’s been crucial that we’ve established open communication, built trust, and continue to foster a supportive environment for our teenagers.
This month’s theme is Service Work/Volunteering. I thought about writing my article for several weeks, worrying about how to write about something that I don’t have much experience in. Then I started feeling guilty and bad about myself. I know that is not the goal, for me or for anyone reading this. So, I started thinking more about ways that I might have “given back” that wasn’t in a volunteer status.
Throughout my life service work and volunteering were something I regularly did without a thought. I did it because I wanted to and cared deeply for human beings in general, even just having met them. I can remember volunteering was something I started doing as a young girl. My mom and I would drive from our small town to the bigger city with Wal-Mart or Payless, to buy shoes for children in our community through a non-profit that ran off donations. Or volunteering to help with children in classrooms, buying food for the homeless population, or giving clothes away that I no longer needed to someone who did.
I have always enjoyed volunteering and service work. In Girl Scouts, they were called service projects. I can remember doing clean up projects and singing at retirement homes. As kids, those of us in the neighborhood would pick up trash around a nearby church. I had a reading “grandma” in 5th grade who I continued to visit for many years after. I also volunteered as a Candy Striper at the hospital delivering mail and flowers. As an adult I learned the importance of service work to my recovery, whether that was opening and closing a meeting, sponsoring others, or being the treasurer for a group.
When I did this month’s webinar on the topic “Radical Acceptance”, one of the comments was on the word radical paired with acceptance. Radical commonly can be referred to a person who is an extremist in their advocacy on topics that are less than traditional. So, the thought was, I understand acceptance in life and as events happen that are less than acceptable, but how I am expected to radically accept these events as something I am putting an “I am ok with this happening to me” stamp on it?