In September 2019,
I attended a System of Care (SOC) Planning Meeting in Kansas City. In attendance was Theresa Berry, one of the first Parent Peer Support specialists in Kansas. She was a wizard at connecting school and mental health supports around children and completed her own training in the early 2000s through Keys and worked for PACES, the Children’s Division of the Wyandot Center for Mental Health. She eventually became a trainer while providing parent peer services for hundreds of families.
Theresa helped me navigate my way through the mental health system. She also helped two other families with whom I became acquainted. Both were struggling single parents from different economic conditions, desperate to find help. Both were raising sons with severe mental health, academic and social difficulties, as well as issues with the juvenile justice system.
Today, my children are grown and I’m still friends with peer support parents I met along my own journey. As I think back to that September evening, I realize that I was living the legacy of parent peer support.
The core value of one parent with lived experience raising a child with serious emotional disabilities helping another is the core of our friendships and our organizations. This service helps both parents and siblings and connects us to one another. It respects our cultures, age and socio-economic status, and gives us someone with whom to share the good times, while holding us up in the bad times.