Parent to Parent

Independent Perspective 1725 with guest Michele Juda on Parent to Parent.

Host:  Welcome to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of Western New York Independent Living (WNYIL). Our guest today is Michelle Juda, the Executive Director of Parent to Parent of New York State and I’m your host Ernie Churchwell. Welcome to the program Michelle.

Guest:  Hi, thanks for having me. Very happy to be here.

Host:  It's our pleasure. And you have a special role here today because recently it was announced that Parent to Parent of New York State is the newest member of the WNYIL family of agencies and we’re delightful to expand services, especially with an established organization such as yours that already has offices all through the Empire State. Can you tell us what sort of things you do for individuals that need your services?

Guest:  Absolutely. And thank you for the warm welcome. We're very excited to be the newest member of the family of agencies, with WNYIL. Parent to Parent shares a lot in common with the independent living movement in terms of being peer centered and focused on that direct support from people with lived experience. In our case, we're serving family caregivers of individuals with disabilities or special health care needs. Our primary focus is on people living with developmental disabilities, but we also serve families who have children with special health care needs. So that could be developmental, physical, emotional or behavioral concerns. So our focus is on supporting that family caregiver and trying to ensure that they have the information and support that they need in their critical role of supporting their sons, daughters, could be grandchildren, foster children, anyone in any type of family caregiving role.

Host:  And I believe that the people that actually provide the service that you mentioned, lived experience, so those who do the counseling are people who know whereof they speak.

Guest:  Absolutely, absolutely. We are careful about the use of the word counseling because we're not providing any clinical services at Parent to Parent. Everyone who works there and is interacting with the families who call us is themselves the parent of a child with a disability or again a special health care need. Sometimes they might be an aunt or a sibling. But most of the time, when people call us, they're talking directly to another parent who has shared the journey and not the exact experience but knows a little bit about what it's like to be in that role.

Host:  And what are some of the things that your staff members can do for these parents that come to them?

Guest:  Sure, we have really kind of three legs of our stool in terms of the services that we provide, regardless of who's funding those services and what the focus might be. So those three legs are our information, referral services, so people can call with questions. We get a lot of questions when somebody has a child with a new diagnosis, and they need to learn about the service systems, the terminology, how to access services, how to pay for services, so we can provide assistance with those things. We also help families with just general questions about after school programs, recreational opportunities, how to get respite services, so anything you can think of a family might want to call us for we can help with that and make connections you know, we network, we network families and get them connected. We also do training services and we do trainings around understanding those service systems. Again, we're kind of learning the way service systems work. We do trainings around helping families, learn how to be effective advocates, so things like letter writing, record keeping, preparing for meetings, how to ask questions, what type of questions to ask, and we do trainings around what we call care for the caregiver. Because so often, people will tell us, you're the only ones who ask about how we're doing. And it's critical that the stress that families take on and their needs to be recognized and they be supported in that, so we do a series around that issue.

Host:  Michelle, our time has flown. If people are interested in signing up with Parent to Parent, how can they reach you?

Guest:  We have offices across the state, I will provide you with our central office’s 800 number, it's 1-800-305-8817.

Host:  Thanks so much for being with us.

Guest:  Thank you for the time, I appreciate it.

Host:  Our pleasure. You've been listening to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of WNYIL. Our guest today was Michelle Juda, Executive Director of Parent to Parent of New York State and I've been your host Ernie Churchwell.