Utilizing Family Peer Support Services: Connecting Family to Family
From Sandy Bumpus, Executive Director, Oregon Family Support Network
June 9, 2020
Many of us have heard about Peer Support over the years, particularly as it relates to individuals who are working toward mental health and addictions recovery. However, we often get questions about Family Peer Support and who are we peers to?
Raising a child experiencing mental health disorders can be challenging, especially when they are involved in multiple systems (education, mental health, child welfare, juvenile justice, developmental disabilities). Navigating all of these systems and the various programs within them is very challenging, and many parents, while very capable, just are not able to find the right services at the right time for their child. Despite many well-meaning professionals, families can end up waiting months, even years to get their child’s needs adequately addressed.
Family Peer Support Specialist
Parents who work in these peer support roles have been supporting families raising children and youth currently experiencing mental health challenges for over 30 years. At the Oregon Family Support Network, parents and direct caregivers make up over 90% of its workforce. Working as a Family Peer Support Specialist is unique as they use their voice and “lived experience” to support other families who need help gaining access to the services and supports they need. Family peers also use their voice to advocate for broader systems change—creating a more responsive System of Care for all children and families. This is all done by working in mutuality with the families they are working with—they drive the conversation and the planning process around their child or youth’s care. The result is Family-to-Family supports that are based on mutual trust, respect and relationship.
Reach Out Oregon
Oregon Family Support Network has been learning and responding to families throughout the COVID-19 pandemic by expanding supports and honoring the trauma that so many Oregon families are feeling. Reach Out Oregon, is a web-based support designed to bring families into a safe support community of family and friends. Parents know how isolating it can be to navigate a complex system of services and supports. Reach Out Oregon addresses this isolation by engaging families to join its community through stories, connecting with one another, learning about resources. Reach Out Oregon offers a Family Support Warmline, Monday through Friday (except holidays) from 12 p.m. – 7 p.m. Imagine a website that is designed to create a community of hope, to honor families and youth who struggle with mental health challenges. Reach Out Oregon engages in a variety of activities to allow families to connect with one another in their communities.
We love to empower families, because we believe it is essential that every parent have equitable voice when it comes to the care of their child!