Rooted in Parent to Parent
My introduction to Parent to Parent started over 25 years ago, when I had the privilege of bringing a unique sibling support program to Yakima. Sibshops was created to support siblings of brothers and sisters with special needs- in a fun, engaging way. I was a parent raising a young son with developmental disabilities, and two other children who needed support and connection to other sibs. My background as an elementary school teacher was the perfect preparation as I worked to develop the program with the Parent to Parent Coordinator. I had volunteered with Sibshops for two years when the Coordinator resigned. I applied for the position, and was hired. At that time, the program offered two primary services- parent support ‘matches’ (a veteran parent raising a child with special needs matched with a newly referred parent) and Sibshops. Over the years, and with the support of our community, the Parent to Parent program has grown substantially. What was once a small program with a part-time Coordinator, is now a comprehensive family support program with a team of staff offering English and Spanish language support groups, family events, a social/recreation program for children with disabilities, a disability awareness program, care coordination and more. I’m so proud of this program and the way we continue to grow to meet the needs of our community.
Over 10 years ago, with an awareness that we weren’t quite meeting the emotional support needs of families dealing with a new diagnosis for their child, I worked with another parent to develop a very special program called Holland. Holland is an 8-week support and learning group for parents and caregivers adjusting to a new diagnosis. This group started as a small English language group in Yakima, serving primarily mothers. Holland is now provided in English and Spanish, in Yakima and Sunnyside; serving mothers, fathers and grandparents. Holland has become a powerful way to support and engage families. Two years ago I was asked to train other Parent to Parent program Coordinators around the State in the ‘Holland Model’, so that it could be replicated in other communities.
Parent to Parent has an amazing network throughout our state- with programming occurring in nearly every county, meeting the support needs of families raising children with disabilities. Next month, the State Coordinator will be retiring after over 20 years, and I was asked to step into the role of Parent to Parent State Coordinator. This will be a part-time position, through the ARC of Washington State. I will continue to supervise programming at Children’s Village as well. The ARC and Children’s Village is working together to support me in this role, and I’m so very thankful for the opportunity!