“You had me at hello.” The famous line between Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger, from the movie Jerry Maguire resonates with many parents and caregivers the first time they meet their Family Partner Practitioner. But what is it about the work that Family Partner Practitioners (FPPs) do? What makes it different than any other clinician or social worker?
It’s their lived experience. Family Partner Practitioners bring to the field what others do not. The journey. They have raised, and often are still raising, their own children, grandchildren, or foster children that have mental health challenges. For a family who has never shared a space with someone who truly understands what that’s like, it's quite frankly, life changing.
See, in a world seemingly full of connection, from social media to 24-hour news cycles; families that are raising kids with mental health needs feel surprisingly alone and isolated.
There are a multitude of reasons for this. Some of these reasons include:
Mental health is portrayed terribly in those 24 hour news cycles,
Language about mental health needs is often negative, blaming, scary and shaming,
The stigma is real. The reality that your child may be viewed differently if you “reveal” they have a mental health diagnosis feels- and often is- quite likely to happen,
Social media is full of people “living their best lives.” Families showing off their child's soccer team or honor roll. But families that are raising kids with mental health needs are in closed, private, questionnaire-locked Facebook groups. If a family hasn’t found one of those groups yet, then social media becomes a constant reminder of why they shouldn’t talk about their child’s differences, needs or even successes.
Family Partner Practitioners know what it means to feel all those feelings and more. They have their own experiences and have been trained to partner with other families and support them on their journeys. FPPs introduce families to other families like theirs. They help families prepare for IEP (Individual Education Program) meetings, hospital meetings and family meetings. FPPs support families in emergency departments while in a mental health crisis. They support people when their own families have turned their backs or have stopped inviting their kids to parties.
They listen. They understand it in their core. They know. They had us at hello.
Many people don’t know that Family Partner Practitioners even exist. Many places, including schools, churches and even pediatricians don’t know. FPPs are the diamond in the rough of the children’s mental health system.
If this blog finds you, it’s for a reason. If you need a FPP or know someone that does, click here for more information. Or share this article with others to help spread the word and eliminate the isolation so many families feel. You could be saving someone’s life.
As a mom and a professional with lived experience, I promise you’re not alone.
Subscribe to our newsletter here to watch out for the upcoming part of this series about how FPPs work with providers.
You may also click here to find out more about requesting a Family Partner Practitioner.
Kristi Glenn is Co-Founder of Pinnacle Partnerships and a professional with lived experience of raising her own child with emotional health needs. She has worked in government, community, and direct service to support family driven care and advocate for family voice at the highest levels.