Creating a Community of Care for Parents
Unique Online Trainings, Funded in Part by Mill Levy, Give Parents and Caregivers Strategies for Supporting Children with I/DD
Lisa Franklin (left), Parent to Parent of Colorado (P2P-CO) program manager, shares information about the program with colleagues at the Rocky Mountain Human Services (RMHS) resource fair in spring of 2018.
Lisa Franklin has been immersed in the intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) community for decades. She was a special education teacher for 34 years, has three children of her own with varying needs and serves as a caregiver for her grandchild – all while running the Parent to Parent of Colorado (P2P-CO) program through Ability Connection Colorado, an organization that provides education, employment and support programs across the state.
“All of those things keep me going,” Lisa said. “I really value all the work parents do.”
The P2P-CO program offers an eight-week online training for parents who want to learn to support other parents of children with I/DD. These trained parents are then matched, upon request, with a new parent looking for information and emotional support. By creating community, parents realize they’re not alone – they can work through challenges together. This parent-matching program is called the Individual Parent Support Program.
The support group started in the 90s by parents who wanted to support and educate others with children who have an I/DD. They became one of the first support groups to have an online presence, and now online training is the program’s main focus. Parents can access training at any time, Lisa said. P2P-CO partnered with Rocky Mountain Human Services (RMHS) to access Denver mill levy funding dedicated to individuals with I/DD to support free training for Denver parents.
The RMHS Mill Levy Program provides funding to individuals, nonprofit organizations and businesses that provide unique I/DD services and support. The program has supported P2P-CO since 2018, initially helping the organization meet increasing needs for staffing and resources to keep up with its growth. Now, the mill levy supports both the Individual Supports Program and a new training and support group that’s uniquely available to Denver residents.
This new training is for parents whose children have challenging behavioral problems. The 10-week program is targeted at parents with younger children between the ages of 3 and 10. It teaches positive, preventative strategies for managing behavior, rather than using punishments.
“A lot of what we do during training is encourage parents to do fun stuff with their kids,” Lisa said. “It’s an approach that may be different from things they’ve seen growing up.”
The lessons and discussions surround the needs of the child. Parents can unlock new ways to work through behavioral concerns when they understand the child’s needs. Parents learn preventive strategies, such as changing a child’s environment to avoid behavioral triggers and creating a system that celebrates success by rewarding positive behaviors.
This program is accessible on a private Facebook group, and the model is similar to the regular eight-week training. Parents have the opportunity to become facilitators and help other parents struggling with their children’s behavioral challenges. Because this training program is only two years old, it primarily relies on staff facilitators, but recently, one parent decided to become a facilitator and take on a group. Lisa hopes to train other parent facilitators to spread their knowledge.
Parents and caregivers have learned so much from P2P-CO programs, helping improve their lives as well as the lives of their children. Lisa said many parents and family members will take classes together, which helps them create a consistent environment for the child and supports the child’s development.
For instance, a mother took a course with her child’s grandmother, because they shared caregiving responsibilities. It was a great bonding experience and resulted in improvements at home. “It really helped them get on the same page about strategies,” Lisa said.
P2P-CO wants to expand its reach and help as many communities as possible. That way, parents and children around Colorado can create a network of support, showing others they’re not alone.