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  • Writer's pictureMisty Woody


AFN Offers Family Peer Support Services to Service Providers, Schools and Families

PITTSBURGH, PA – Allegheny Family Network (AFN) is reintroducing its services to provide more supports to parents and caregivers as an increasing number of households are connecting with mental health providers in Allegheny County. More than ever, households countywide are navigating the unique path of raising a child with mental health or behavioral health concerns – a journey that can be stressful and confusing. Last year, 8.5% of homes received mental health supports, an increase from 7.7% in 2020, according to the Allegheny Community Indicators dashboard.

Parents and caregivers are seeking advice and support in working with a variety of child-serving systems, including schools, child welfare, family court and juvenile justice. The ongoing pandemic, remote learning and rolling periods of isolation and quarantine have spurred an increase in social service referrals, school interventions and mental health service needs. Family Peer Support Services provide parents with information, resources and guidance from a trained and credentialed parent who has also raised a child with similar challenges, in order to preserve their Family Voice and Choice.

Allegheny Family Network, the largest family-run organization in Pennsylvania, is a longtime provider of supports for parents and caregivers in Allegheny County. AFN began offering parent support groups, individualized support and local advocacy in 2006. It expanded services and advocacy efforts across the commonwealth when its statewide agency PA Parent and Family Alliance formed in 2018.

“Family Peer Support uses lived experience, training and a strength-based approach to help parents and caregivers maintain dignity and respect, receive information and knowledge, and understand the options and resources available for their family during emotionally challenging times,” said Ruth Fox, CEO. “Family Support Partners (FSPs) can guide parents and caregivers through the journey of receiving a diagnosis for their child for the first time, seeking services for their children, and helping their family overcome trauma. Our services also support families who are involved in the court system, providing foster care, involved in Children, Youth and Families, or simply seeking skills and support in parenting a child with challenges.”

Parents and caregivers can receive individualized support from a Family Support Partner from the moment they begin noticing behaviors, receiving calls home from school or after experiencing trauma. FSPs can help locate providers, organize appointments, teach parents multi-system family management skills and connect them to outpatient services, school supports and other health-based community organizations.

AFN offers parents an opportunity to learn from others, in community-based and virtual Parent Support Groups. Parents can attend Parent Trainings to learn parenting skills, understand their child’s diagnosis, or learn how to better advocate for themselves and their children. Those enrolled with AFN’s services are also able to connect to housing and employment services, as well as the adult education program. Family goals and outcomes can increase by reducing stigma with awareness, eliminating obstacles to services and treatment goals, and supporting the family in meeting needs such as increased income or stable housing.

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