Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Parent to Parent National Survey

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Parent to Parent National Survey

Article excerpt

Parent to Parent (P-P) programs provide emotional and informational support to parents of children who have special needs. To provide this support, trained and experienced "veteran" parents are carefully matched in one-to-one relationships with parents who are newly referred to the program. The veteran parent has shared the experience of a disability in the family and can provide the unique kind of support that can only come from another parent who has "been there." In the fall of 1988, the Beach Center on Families and Disability at the University of Kansas initiated a national survey of Parent to Parent programs.

Why we did this research

While Parent to Parent programs have been providing information and emotional support to parents for over twenty years, little had been written about these programs. No one knew for sure how many programs there were, how they were structured administratively, and exactly what kinds of services were being provided. No one had gathered information from program coordinators or parents about their participation in P-P programs. As a result, it was hard for many families to find a P-P program in their community, and parents and service providers who were interested in starting a program had little information to guide them.

What we learned

P-P programs have grown from one-- the Pilot Parents Program at the Greater Omaha (Nebraska) Association for Retarded Citizens, founded in the early 1970s--to over 350 active programs. We estimate that over 20,000 parents are currently participating in a P-P program.

P-P programs exist in every region of the country. Some are small programs that serve just a few parents; others serve several hundred families. An "average" program provides support to between 13 and 25 referred parents. While a few have budgets of over $100,000, the majority have annual budgets of less than $5000. Fewer than half have a paid coordinator; all veteran parents are unpaid.

All programs provide emotional and informational support to families. Most programs serve families whose children have a range of disabilities. Of the families participating as referred parents, 85% have a child with special needs who is younger than 12, although an increasing number of programs are now matching families who have adolescents or young adults. …

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