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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Forgiveness is something that can be described in so many ways by everyone. I describe forgiveness as the power to move on, heal, recover and to have inner peace and grace in life. It takes courage, mental strength, bravery, humility, and compassion. For some of us it also takes emotional and spiritual awareness to forgive.
I was ill-prepared for taking care of a child with behavioral health challenges. I didn’t understand mental illness and neurodiversity. I hadn’t heard of trauma-informed care. I had little tools in my parenting toolbox. I parented a lot of the time from a place of fear, control, embarrassment, fatigue, and ignorance. I also parented out of a deep and all-consuming love.
When I was first asked to write a blog geared to the topic “Beyond Recovery”, I tried to really think about how I could incorporate a memory that had just shown on Facebook that morning. This was the first public statement I had made about my son’s and my story regarding his struggles.
When I was 4 years old, I got my first pair of hearing aids. For the next 7 years, I hated them. Everything was just so loud. I would take them out often and several times, with my mother, have to dig them out of garbage cans because I accidentally threw them away. We moved to Helena, MT when I was 10 years old. My new audiologist realized that my hearing aids had never been set correctly for me. Finally, I could hear comfortably.
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Family relationships can be challenging, complicated, wonderful, or any other positive or negative adjective you want to put there! Navigating family relationships becomes even harder when there are health challenges. Raising a child with a behavioral health challenge and/or special healthcare need can put added strain on family relationships.
The Family Support Committee was started in 2021 by and for parents and caregivers with lived experience raising a child with a behavioral health challenge and/or special health care need. Its mission is to develop and support Family Peer Supporters in MT to help families, who are currently raising a child with a behavioral health challenge and/or special healthcare need, build support systems, tools, and resiliency.
As a parent raising a child with behavioral health challenges, these words are lifesaving; especially when they come from a parent who has also raised a child with behavioral health challenges. Or in recovery terms, has lived experience. We who have walked in their shoes bring to a struggling parent empathy, practical knowledge, judgement-free listening, empowerment, support, and hope. This unique role is called Family Peer Support.