Parent Support Network
We developed our Parent Support Networks because we recognized that, when it comes to the mental health of our children, parents remain isolated. It can be difficult to find and access proper resources, and we are here to help you meet these challenges.
Our Parent Support Networks will empower and equip you to better understand your children’s mental health needs, recognize warning signs when your children are struggling, and better advocate and find resources for your children.
You are not alone!
Frequently Asked Questions
Finding one or more parents who are interested in volunteering to become meeting Facilitators is the essential first step. These volunteer parents must have personal experience raising a child, teen or young adult who has struggled with his or her mental health.
Potential Facilitators must fill out a Facilitator Application and background check form, and be willing to be interviewed by The Youth Mental Health Project.
Once a Facilitator’s application is approved by The Youth Mental Health Project, each parent volunteer must participate in Facilitator training, agree to maintain the program according to the Parent Support Network Handbook, Policies and Procedures, and Principles and Philosophies.
Any child can struggle with emotional, mental or behavioral health at any time, so a diagnosis is not necessary in order for a parent to benefit from the Network.
The term “parents” is used to describe any adult caregiver, including guardians, parents, grandparents, foster or step-parents, of a young person between the ages of 0 and 24.
Given that 1 in 5 children struggle with a diagnosable mental health disorder, Networks give parents an opportunity to find support, feel connected, share resources, and realize they are not alone. Ideally, both parents and any other adult caregivers in a child’s life will attend Network meetings.
Parents often begin searching for answers and support well before they realize that their children may be struggling with a mental health problem or receive a diagnosis of any kind. Because we believe that early intervention can make a difference for a child and family, and prevent the worsening of a condition or deterioration of a child’s mental health, Parent Support Networks are intended to be relatable and supportive to all parents at any stage of concern.
NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) support groups are “for family members, caregivers and loved ones of individuals living with mental illness”* and are typically run by and for family members with adult children and family members. While we applaud the good work done by NAMI, our goal is to support every stage of a family’s journey, including challenges and struggles that do not necessarily result in a diagnosis or qualify as an “illness.”
The Facilitators are vetted, trained and supported by The Youth Mental Health Project and are dedicated to helping parents navigate a difficulties that they have experienced themselves.
While each meeting will be guided by one or more Facilitators using a defined structure and format, the topics of discussion are driven by the parent attendees and the particular concerns or feelings they bring to the meeting. Typical topics include, but are not limited to, concerns about behaviors, therapy, treatment, medication, education, diagnosis, relationships with friends and family, and the impact on siblings.
The Facilitators are trained to use any topic of discussion as an opportunity to help parents feel connected and work through hard to have feelings, such as blame, shame, guilt, anger, disappointment, and frustration, enabling them to find hope, gratitude, acceptance and strength.
Since there is no set curriculum, parents can decide when to attend based upon their own schedule and may choose to attend regularly or sporadically.
As parents may have children at home who need care and whose needs are often unpredictable, flexibility is built-in to allow parents to arrive late or leave early. Facilitators are trained to create a comfortable and safe environment for all attendees.
We suggest you make arrangements for your children with a trusted caregiver or, if there are two parents involved, have one parent attend the meeting while the other parent stays with the child/children.
Network meetings are meant as an outlet and safe space for peer to peer adult support and can be an essential part of self-care for parents.
Anonymity is a foundation of safety, particularly during times of stress, anxiety and worry. We support and protect each individual’s need to maintain privacy and anonymity and insist that all Network attendees agree to maintain the confidentiality and privacy of all attendees and their family members. We respect the right of each individual and his or her family to determine if, when and where they are willing to share their identities or personal stories or experiences.
Facilitators are also trained to use a Conversation Toolkit to help make it easier for attendees to share.
Of course, parents are in a room with other parents who know how difficult it can be to ignore a call from a child who is struggling or a babysitter or other parents who may be managing a difficult situation.
Meetings are intended to be free of judgment and safe spaces to do what you need to do, so any parent who feels the need to take a phone call should quietly step out of the room.
Mental health continuously shifts, changes and evolves during a lifetime. This is particularly true during childhood, as a person’s body grows, develops, and builds up immunity. If a child’s mental health struggles are causing impairment in functioning in any significant way at home, at school or with friends, that child may be experiencing a condition that is commonly referred to as mental illness.*
Recovery from any illness, both mental and physical, occurs when a person regains the ability to function appropriately without severe impairment.
* Any information, suggestions or advice provided by The Youth Mental Health Project or Parent Support Network Facilitators do NOT constitute medical or legal advice and are not intended to be relied upon to cure, diagnose, or treat any mental or physical health condition.
That being said, the Parent Support Network materials are costly to create, manage, and update and a great deal of work goes into continuous and ongoing support of each Parent Support Network. In order to establish and maintain a Network while continuing to offer free, meaningful support to families, The Youth Mental Health Project will work with Facilitators and Sponsors to help them find ways to fund the model. (More details about the funding model will be provided upon request.)
Some Networks are fully or partially financed by Sponsors, who are organizations, individuals, or groups in the community interested in supporting family mental health. Networks can also secure initial or ongoing funding through grants. Funding to support a Parent Support Network can also be raised through fundraising events and donations, using the 501(C)(3) nonprofit status of The Youth Mental Health Project. In all cases, The Youth Mental Health Project is available to collaborate and support local efforts to sustain and fund a Network.
Parent Support Networks guide parents through their intense feelings and circumstances to a deeper sense of belonging, role modeling, and sharing valuable resources, all of which foster personal growth and improved outcomes for families.
Creating a group through The Youth Mental Health Project means you will benefit from personalized support, training, assistance in growing presence in your community, marketing and communication materials, 501(c)(3) Status, insurance, web presence for your group and more.