Parent Connectors History (Long)
Founders Al Duchnowski and Krista Kutash share why the Parent Connectors program was first developed in the 1980s and how it is unique compared to other programs focused on supporting parents of children with emotional and behavioral challenges. They also explain the three core processes of Parent Connectors and where they envision the program going in the future.
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[00:00:15.710]There were a couple of reasons
[00:00:17.860]why we developed Parent Connectors.
[00:00:20.470]Our research and training center
[00:00:22.820]at the University of South Florida,
[00:00:24.840]had been engaged in developing a system of care
[00:00:28.330]for children who have serious emotional problems.
[00:00:31.690]And a very important principle of that system of care
[00:00:35.800]was to really employ parents as equal decision makers.
[00:00:40.780]So we were very oriented toward
[00:00:43.070]what could we do to support those kinds of concepts.
[00:00:47.390]As we did that more and more, interestingly enough,
[00:00:50.870]we became more and more involved
[00:00:52.670]with parent groups across the country.
[00:00:54.890]I got to talk to hundreds of parents
[00:00:56.846]about their experiences, their children,
[00:00:59.680]and what it was like to go on this adventure
[00:01:02.270]with a child with mental illness.
[00:01:04.080]And I'll never forget, I was at a state institution
[00:01:07.500]and I was in the lobby,
[00:01:08.333]I was supposed to interview a parent
[00:01:09.980]in about an hour or two,
[00:01:11.280]and in the waiting room with me
[00:01:13.430]was a mother and a little tiny kid,
[00:01:16.110]couldn't have been more than four,
[00:01:17.560]kinda playing around,
[00:01:19.483]and I thought, oh, they're here to visit someone.
[00:01:21.310]So I just sat quietly in the lobby
[00:01:23.864]and a nurse came in and grabbed the little child's hand
[00:01:28.700]and said, "You're coming with me now."
[00:01:30.180]He went with the nurse, turned and said,
[00:01:32.187]"Bye-bye mamma, bye-bye."
[00:01:34.960]And the mom's like, "Okay, bye-bye Tommy, bye Tommy."
[00:01:38.239]And soon as they walked out the door,
[00:01:40.710]she hit the floor in sobs.
[00:01:43.587]"What did I do wrong?
[00:01:46.447]"I should have been a better mom.
[00:01:48.497]"What is happening to my son?"
[00:01:50.730]So, of course, as a good mental health services researcher,
[00:01:53.840]I was on the floor too with her.
[00:01:55.940]And we talked for many hours and from that day,
[00:02:00.370]I said, there's no reason for parents not to be empowered
[00:02:04.610]and understand the services they're getting.
[00:02:11.830]There are several factors that make it unique.
[00:02:15.310]In the operation of the program
[00:02:17.650]Parents Connectors is conducted
[00:02:20.210]primarily on the phone with parents.
[00:02:23.417]People are often shocked
[00:02:25.040]that we do an intervention over the phone,
[00:02:28.020]parents calling other parents.
[00:02:29.630]Many parents can't get to their mental health sessions.
[00:02:32.626]Transportation is an issue.
[00:02:34.380]So we designed it to be on the phone
[00:02:37.370]so that it can be at any time the parent is available.
[00:02:40.330]There were and still are, many parent support groups
[00:02:45.070]that are run by different parent agencies
[00:02:48.540]and in fact, I was heavily involved with one
[00:02:51.230]and parents would come on the second Thursday of the month
[00:02:54.640]and meet in a church basement or somewhere.
[00:02:57.630]The frustrating part of that was
[00:02:59.463]that every second Thursday maybe the car didn't work
[00:03:03.810]or there was some crisis,
[00:03:05.650]so the parent missed that meeting.
[00:03:07.660]And it happened again and again
[00:03:10.160]and as we became involved
[00:03:11.960]with other parent support programs,
[00:03:14.750]everybody loved the parent support group,
[00:03:17.710]but getting sustained attendance was very difficult,
[00:03:21.330]because of the circumstances of the family.
[00:03:23.590]So we said, let's try something different.
[00:03:27.379]The three core processes
[00:03:29.550]of the Parent Connector program
[00:03:32.040]are one, to provide emotional support,
[00:03:34.530]two, work on attitudes toward engagement services
[00:03:38.320]and third, informational support.
[00:03:44.050]What has really turned out is that emotional support
[00:03:48.010]is what everybody talks about.
[00:03:50.800]This is what parents say they felt was the best thing
[00:03:55.450]and the thing that really helped them,
[00:03:57.087]getting that kind of emotional support,
[00:03:59.700]because it's basically zero in their lives
[00:04:02.830]before they get involved with the Parent Connector.
[00:04:05.840]So we have developed a perspective
[00:04:08.920]of looking at emotional support
[00:04:11.160]and why do these parents need emotional support?
[00:04:15.720]Well, basically it's because a child
[00:04:18.210]that has an emotional behavioral problem,
[00:04:20.910]that family has an awful lot of stigma
[00:04:23.870]and that quickly leads the parent then,
[00:04:27.440]to blame themselves.
[00:04:29.160]It mus have been something like the parent
[00:04:32.090]that Krista observed in that waiting room,
[00:04:34.907]"What did I do wrong?
[00:04:36.387]"Why is my child having these problems?
[00:04:38.807]"What could I have done better?"
[00:04:40.690]Needless to say, this all leads to a lot of stress.
[00:04:44.015]So we have the stigma and the blame and the stress
[00:04:48.600]and in providing emotional support,
[00:04:50.960]we've worked with our Parent Connectors
[00:04:53.320]to figure out, well, how can you best address that?
[00:05:02.700]The overall purpose of the Parent Connector program
[00:05:06.750]is to essentially supply support, it's an intervention
[00:05:12.148]that's going to lead to better outcomes for that family.
[00:05:17.550]The primary purpose of Parent Connectors
[00:05:19.845]is to help parents become fully engaged
[00:05:23.854]and partners in services,
[00:05:26.477]whether those services are in schools
[00:05:29.229]or in community mental health settings.
[00:05:33.120]I have a vision and hope to see it happen,
[00:05:36.560]but it would be wonderful
[00:05:37.710]to have a Parent Connector in every school.
[00:05:40.500]That would be a great accomplishment
[00:05:42.360]to have a Parent Connector in every community health center
[00:05:45.880]and school in the nation.
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