BOONE, N.C. — Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, Appalachian State University’s Parent to Parent Family Support Network-High Country found ways to connect with and support High Country families with special needs children during the 2019–20 academic year, assisting 437 families and regional service providers through a total of 2,198 outreach connections. This work was made possible by donations and $73,005 in grant support from 10 different organizations.
Parent to Parent (FSN-HC), housed in the Reich College of Education (RCOE), provides free support and information to families who have a premature baby or a child with a disability, an emotional or behavioral challenge, a mental illness or a chronic health condition, and also assists families who are grieving the death of a child. The program serves the seven counties of North Carolina's High Country: Alleghany, Ashe, Avery Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey.
“Grant funding is, and always has been, critical in the ability of Parent to Parent to fulfill its mission — to provide services to families. Without such funding and the community’s support, we would not have continued to exist,” said Kaaren Hayes, the grants recipient and director and outreach coordinator for Parent to Parent (FSN-HC).
Hayes said that although Parent to Parent ceased holding face-to-face meetings in spring and summer due to COVID-19, the organization continued to offer support services to families via Zoom teleconferencing, text messages, emails and daily informative posts on its Facebook page, as well as its Parent to Parent Resource Database.
“I am thankful for the outreach and the opportunities that Parent to Parent has provided for our family,” said an Avery County parent who received assistance from Parent to Parent (FSN-HC) in 2019–20. “Parent to Parent has provided such a great opportunity for our family to connect with others. Life is always a little easier when you are with others who understand your situation.”
More on the awarded grants
- $2,556 in funding from the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to support the general operating costs of Parent to Parent FSN-HC, including staff salaries. “This funding supports staff who provide direct, one-on-one services to families. For example, these staff listen to a family’s story and help them think through next steps for how they might help improve their situation, both for themselves and their children,” Hayes said.
- $1,400 in funding from Watauga County Schools (WCS) for a Parent to Parent FSN-HC staff member to serve as a liaison, working with families who have WCS students with special needs. According to Hayes, this liaison helped with some of the activities WCS held for families, including face-to-face parent meetings, and also assisted in publicizing these events. This person also assisted WCS teachers who sought help for local families.
- $24,851 in funding from the Blue Ridge Partnership for Children for Parent to Parent FSN-HC to continue supporting families with special needs children through Circles of Parents — a parent-led support group model. Hayes said, in this model, Parent to Parent FSN-HC staff work with parents and caregivers to create a positive environment in which families can build upon their strengths and interests, as well as gain additional skills to help their children. The model is used in Parent to Parent FSN-HC support groups in Yancey, Avery and Wilkes counties.
$13,000 in funding from UNC-Chapel Hill. Hayes said this awarded funding helped Parent to Parent FSN-HC provide its core services in all seven High Country counties, with a specific focus on support groups.
Parent to Parent FSN-HC’s core services:
- Engaging in collaborative activities with organizations and agencies.
- Providing family members with information about local resources and/or disability-related issues individually.
- Providing training workshops for family members who have children with special needs.
- Providing support and crisis response activities to family members on a one-to-one basis.
- Facilitating support groups.
$10,947 in funding from Vaya Health, which helped fund Parent to Parent FSN-HC caregiver support groups for families who have children with special needs in Watauga and Wilkes counties. It also supported the Awesome Squad, a social group for teens and young adults — those with and without special needs — in Watauga County.
Awesome Squad, which met monthly in 2019–20, was created through a collaboration between Parent to Parent FSN-HC and App State’s Scholars with Diverse Abilities Program (SDAP). Attendees engaged in activities such as playing games, creating art, watching a movie and singing karaoke. According to Hayes, an SDAP staff member or a graduate student volunteering with SDAP helped facilitate the group’s meetings, and plans are underway for Awesome Squad to meet virtually this fall.
- $6,251 in funding from High Country United Way for Parent to Parent FSN-HC to provide direct services to Watauga and Avery county families who have children with special needs. Hayes said the funding helped with facilitating support groups in these counties.
- $1,000 in funding from the Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church, in Blowing Rock, to support the Sydney Powell Fund for Infants and Children Who Are Medically Fragile. This fund offers financial assistance to families in need who have a child with a serious medical condition. According to Hayes, the fund usually supports up to 15 High Country families each year, depending on the amount of monies available.
- $2,500 in funding from The Valle Country Fair. Hayes said Parent to Parent FSN-HC used these funds to support families who have children with special needs in Avery and Watauga counties.
$10,000 in funding from The Health Foundation as matching funds for the ninth annual Spooky Duke Race and Costume Contest. The Halloween-themed fundraising and awareness raising event is a USA Track & Field (USATF)-certified 5K and 10K race with a free costume march and contest where children, adults and pets can all show off their costumes and share in the fun.
Through sponsorships, donations and participation fees, the 2019 Spooky Duke event raised $14,000-plus in proceeds to benefit the work of Parent to Parent FSN-HC, with the $10,000 matching grant raising the total to more than $24,000.
- $500 in funding from the Ashe County Community Foundation. Hayes said these funds helped Parent to Parent (FSN-HC) provide child care for Special Kids Special Parents, a parent/caregiver support group in Ashe County.
Various App State students were involved in these projects through internships and service-learning opportunities with Parent to Parent FSN-HC.
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About Parent to Parent Family Support Network-High Country
Parent to Parent Family Support Network-High Country (FSN-HC) provides free support, caring connections, information and hope to families who have a premature baby, a child with a disability, an emotional or behavioral challenge, a mental illness or a chronic health condition, and to families who are grieving the death of a child. The program serves seven counties in Western North Carolina: Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey. Parent to Parent FSN-HC provides information and tools to help families see the possibilities for their children and turn that potential into reality. Learn more at https://parent2parent.appstate.edu.
About the Reich College of Education
Appalachian offers one of the largest undergraduate teacher preparation programs in North Carolina, graduating about 500 teachers a year. The Reich College of Education enrolls approximately 2,400 students in its bachelor's, master's, education specialist and doctoral degree programs. With so many teacher education graduates working in the state, there is at least one RCOE graduate teaching in every county in North Carolina. Learn more at https://rcoe.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.