Family Involvement & Leadership

By Jean Houston, FAST TRAC Lead Family Contact

On March 22, 2014, we started the third family leadership series.  We began with a retreat at Woodland Lakes.  The weather was cool, but no one seemed to mind as we worked toward building our trust and awareness of other’s needs during those first two hours.  One example of the trust building we did was to blindfold a few people and give them a large rope to form into a square.  The trust came through by working diligently and giving precise auditory directions to help them move about in a way so they could succeed and form the shape.

Lunch followed and the conversations began among the participants. We talked about what we bring to the table when we begin the venture to discover our desire to support our family and whether we want to go further and become involved in community issues.  We looked at our “baggage” and how that affects our ability to be open to hear what others are saying.

Mary Wolff, FAST TRAC Cultural and Linguistic Competence Coordinator, facilitated a session titled “OUCH! That Stereotype Hurts.”  This diversity training brought us together to discuss ways to appropriately respond when we hear remarks about an individual or a group of people that makes us feel uneasy or angry.

We discussed what a leader looks like to the participants.  Each table used a large sheet of paper to write down their ideas and then came up with one description they agreed was their definition of a leader. We talked about how changes have occurred throughout history.  Those changes did not occur because of campaigns by professionals, but rather came about due to parents and those who believed in the cause; advocating for changes from the local to the national level.  Some of those changes were children with disabilities being educated with peers through the advocacy to create IDEA, the special education law; creating the United Cerebral Palsy Organization and The Arc, among others.

Recognizing the needs of children/youth who have mental health issues and accompanying behavioral challenges, and ensuring they get an appropriate education, is the “new” challenge for the parents and advocates of those children.  Families face many challenges as they look toward the future of their children.  They must learn how to maneuver within the systems their children may be involved in by learning the language of the systems.

This group gives the opportunity to do just that.  We bring agency persons who can give insight and resources to families.  This series of sessions will provide an opportunity to learn about the systems, working within a group, advocating for your family and others, and expanding  your leadership skills to reach out to another family and share what you have learned to guide them toward locating supports. Parents often feel isolated and overwhelmed, but when someone understands what you are going through, the stress level is lowered.  Helping each other is how advocacy was born and changes occurred for children.

The next meeting of the Family Leadership group will be on Saturday, May 17, 2014 9:00a-3:00 pm.  The series ends on Saturday, September 13, 2014.  Sessions are held at the Mental Health & Recovery Board. Childcare and lunch will be provided.

If you are committed to the challenge and would like to learn more about the Family Leadership series, please give me a call at 513-732-5034.