During the strategic planning session at KidsAbility the need for parent and family support was identified. Families of children with special needs needed a way to obtain information about various aspects of their child’s needs and challenges, community services and programs. Families also needed to be connected to each other for moral support and understanding that can only come from other parents of children with special needs. By being educated and connected the hope is that families will feel empowered to advocate effectively for their child, participate in the community and build relationships with each other as a way to create lifelong support.
Three pillars were identified as the driving force at Waterloo Region Family Network: Educate, Connect and Empower.
At WRFN we feel that educating families with information surrounding their child’s needs and issues that may come up as a result is an important first step. Knowledge brings about confidence and strength to make informed decisions. It also enables families to better advocate for their child and in turn educate and increase awareness in others. In an effort to fill this need, WRFN offers seminars and workshops on issues surrounding raising and nurturing a child with special needs.
Connecting families to each other and to the community was also an important service WRFN provides. Having a child with special needs can be isolating, especially when the realization that your child has a special need is new. By creating a strong Parent Mentor Program, families can be connected to other families that have faced the same challenges and have some advice to provide. A sense of community is also important, so we endeavor to make families aware of the many events related to special needs in our community.
WRFN also identified that it was important that individuals with special needs also feel a sense of community and be connected with each other. Out of this need, Coffee Club and the Peer Mentoring Program were born. Individuals 18-39 with special needs can participate in an evening of fun activities and socialization at Coffee Club.
Empowerment may be the most important ideal WRFN has. By being educated and connected, families and individuals can feel empowered and better advocate for their child and themselves. A feeling of empowerment gives families confidence and strength to know they can rise to the everyday challenges they may deal with as well as giving them a feeling of self worth.
WRFN recognizes and respects the diversity and uniqueness of the families we serve. Each family must define their own journey by making choices that are right for them. We believe in educating families about all available choices in a unbiased, non judgmental way. This gives families the tools to make genuine and informed choices that are right for their families.