Month: July 2022

What can you expect from NC Youth & Family Voices Amplified?

 

NC Youth and Family Voices Amplified is a new program within the UNC Greensboro Center for Youth, Family, and Community Partnerships. The mission of Voices Amplified is to amplify the voice of NC’s youth and families in systems and services that support their mental health and well being. We do this through education, community partnerships, and support to enhance family-driven and youth-led care. 

All of this Program’s staff members will bring their own personal lived experiences and extensive experience in the arena of Youth and Family Peer Support to provide leadership in North Carolina’s movement to empower youth and family voice in promoting mental health across the State. 

Voices Amplified builds on decades of work across North Carolina to infuse the System of Care framework and youth and family voice into child- and family-serving systems. However, as a new program within UNCG, much of our work is still in the very early planning stages! 

However, to give you a sneak peak of what lies ahead for Voices Amplified, here are just a few of the key activities our team will be working on in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead:

  • Training and certification for Family Partners and Youth Peer Support Providers across North Carolina
  • Technical assistance to Youth and Family Peer Support Providers, as well as the agencies that employ them
  • Collaboration activities to advance the System of Care framework across child- and family-serving systems in North Carolina
  • In-person and on-line outreach to youth and families to promote mental health and access to services and support
  • Recruitment of prospective new Family Partners and Youth Peer Support Providers
  • Advocacy for youth and families to be at the table when decisions are made about systems and services that impact their lives. 

We look forward to partnering with individuals, families, and organizations at the local, regional, and statewide levels to carry out this work! We invite you to stay connected with us through our website and social media channels, where more details will be coming soon as we are ready to launch the program’s specific activities. 

Connect with us on social media!

 

Learn more from Kara Lynch below:

What is the System of Care Approach?

 

By Chandrika Brown, Collaboration Coordinator

The NC Collaborative for Children, Youth, and Families website says System of Care is a comprehensive network of community-based services and supports organized to meet the needs of families involved with multiple child service agencies. Some don’t know that System of Care is not a service or a program – it is a way of working together with youth and families to achieve the desired outcomes identified by the youth and family. 

SOC exists because, over the years, experts in their field have discovered that partnering with youth and families around the services they provide results in more positive outcomes for children, youth, and families. SOC is a combination of collaboration, accountability, cultural responsiveness, individualized strength-based approach, child and family partnerships, and community-based services and supports. 

Another significant value of SOC from a family’s perspective is hope. SOC gives our families and youth hope. Collaboration is essential in supporting families and youth because families grow tired of repeating their stories to multiple agencies over and over and attending various meetings for different agencies when they could have attended one meeting with everyone involved. Collaboration shows the family and youth that you hear them, their voice is essential, and that you are there to support them as you feel the support is needed.

“System of Care has many great benefits, such as the Child and Family Team meetings. During this component of System of Care, everyone involved in the family’s life is invited to the same meeting, which is a learning opportunity for everyone, including the family. The family learns how systems operate, and agency staff learns more about the family. Together a plan will be created with families leading the process and sharing what they will commit to and what may be some barriers in accomplishing a goal,” shared Family Partner, Teka Dempson.

 

Hear more from Chandrika below:

Our Vision for Amplifying Youth Voices in North Carolina

 

By Kyle Reece, Youth Training Coordinator

Young people have the right to be heard is a statement that has never been more profound than right now. As the world is coming out of a global pandemic, mental health is a topic of discussion more than ever. Although advocacy is the proven catalyst to change, the youth empowerment movement still has a long way to go. While self-advocacy opportunities for youth are on the rise, there is still the inspiration to raise mental health awareness, promote positive youth development, and train youth in independent living and self-advocacy.

UNC-Greensboro’s Center for Youth, Family, and Community Partnerships’ new program, NC Youth and Family Voices Amplified, has the perfect opportunity to provide youth with training and skills that will allow them to utilize their own lived experience to affect positive change in their own lives and their communities. We will also provide Youth Support Partners the support needed to work with youth hands-on and offer the technical assistance necessary to ensure youth are fully supported and given opportunities for advocacy.

We know the importance of mental health awareness and youth advocacy. Still, we must also provide opportunities for youth to get involved and provide their own lived experience in these efforts. The efforts will be achieved in various ways. First, it’s vital to ensure youth are considered equal partners in all aspects of our work. This starts with empowering youth through self-advocacy training, compelling storytelling, youth advisory councils, and speaking opportunities. We show them respect by encouraging young people to speak up for themselves and their peers. Listening and creating opportunities for their voices to affect meaningful change in the communities, systems, and services they are involved in results in positive changes and ensures positive growth in the youth we serve.

 As important as it is to equip youth with the skills necessary to succeed, it is equally imperative to train and support those who work with youth. We ensure that young people have the support required to grow as they navigate mental and behavioral health services and systems by providing technical assistance and guidance to Youth Support Partners. In a time when youth need the most support, it is essential to ensure that their Support Partners have the tools and skills necessary to empower and support them as they navigate these systems and encourage them to advocate for themselves and others. We are maximizing the potential for positive growth for the youth we serve. 

 NC Youth and Family Voices Amplified strives to ensure that youth are supported through peer support, advocacy training, and opportunities for their voices to be discovered. By focusing on the training, technical assistance, and community partnerships necessary to provide youth with opportunities to be treated as equal partners and utilize their lived experiences in meaningful ways, we will affect positive change in their own lives. We know that we will successfully empower young people to meet their full potential. In this unique time, when change, advocacy, and mental health awareness are imperative, we must never forget that young people have the right to be heard!

Hear more from Kyle below:

Our Plans for Supporting Family Partners in North Carolina

By Frederick Douglas, Family Training Coordinator

Hi, I am Frederick Douglas, a Family Partner and a Nationally Certified Family Peer Specialist. I have been providing support to families for over 25 years. I currently serve as the Family Training Coordinator with North Carolina Youth and Family Voices Amplified, the new training and education program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

My new position supports three critical areas in implementing the Family Partner Role. The first area that my position supports is authenticity, which validates the perspective of youth and families who face behavioral and mental health challenges. It is essential to provide training and technical assistance to parents and caregivers interested in serving as Family Partners. It is equally crucial that the right applicant possesses skills in navigating the service delivery system. It is also vital for Family Partners to have the ability to articulate the lessons learned from their own lived experience. The ability to express their own lived experience creates space for supporting and sharing their lived experience with other parents and caregivers of children, youth, or emerging adults experiencing behavioral and mental health challenges.

The second area of my position is to identify training needs to support the effective implementation of the family partner role and to provide technical assistance to family partners in completing the certification process. Additionally, it is essential to establish the position by educating providers and community partners in understanding the value and significance of including family voice in decision-making around service delivery.

Lastly, my position is also to share best practices, which involves educating family partners, providers and the local communities in the System of Care core values and principles. One of our many goals is to create opportunities for families, agencies, and community partners to build family-driven, collaborative, relationships, and partnerships, across the state of North Carolina.

NC Voices Amplified looks forward to partnering with children, youth, families, and community partners at the local, regional, and state levels to carry out this work! We invite you to stay connected with us through our website and other social media outlets. 

Hear more from Fred below:

 

Announcing the NC Youth & Family Voices Amplified Program at UNCG: About our Vision to Connect Youth and Families with Critical Mental Health Peer Support

Children and teenagers in the United States are facing an unprecedented mental health crisis. In October 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association banded together to issue a declaration of a National State of Emergency in Children’s Mental Health. Shortly thereafter in December, the U.S. Surgeon General issued an Advisory on the Youth Mental Health Crisis and how it has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Behind all of the headlines and statistics on the mental health crisis among children and youth in the U.S. are the individual children, adolescents, and young adults who face mental health challenges, along with their parents and caregivers. Many of these youth and parents feel lost and overwhelmed when it comes to seeking services and other resources to foster positive mental health and support youth facing mental health crises. When navigating these services and systems, many families and youth find added comfort and support if they can connect with others who have had similar experiences. 

With collaboration and funding support from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Division of Child and Family Well-Being, the UNC Greensboro Center for Youth, Family, and Community Partnerships (CYFCP) is launching the NC Youth and Family Voices Amplified Program. NC Voices Amplified will provide training, technical assistance, and other resources for a growing workforce of Family and Youth Peer Support Providers across North Carolina. 

“We are thrilled to partner with UNCG on this program, which addresses two priority areas for NCDHHS – workforce development and increased access to mental health services for children and youth,” said Yvonne Copeland, Director of the NCDHHS Division of Child and Family Well-Being. “This partnership elevates those with lived experience, who are able to engage and empower children and young people while alleviating stigma. Youth peer support providers are an important and needed resource as we work together to address the youth mental health crisis.”

UNCG’s program will build upon a growing movement in North Carolina and nationally to empower youth and family voice and the engagement of individuals with lived experiences to guide mental health and other related systems and services for children, youth, and families. According to Frederick Douglas, who is the Family Training Coordinator for NC Voices Amplified, “The expectation that North Carolina should value and include the voices of the children, youth, and families who face mental health challenges in service delivery decisions is not new in our state. In the 1980s, initially, families had to fight to secure a place at the decision-making table, and typically they served in a volunteer advisory capacity. Families began to share a wealth of knowledge about how to effectively meet their needs. They shared what works and doesn’t work in classrooms, with providers, with legislators and community partners. 

“In the early 1990’s, some families were paid a small stipend to cover childcare costs, travel-related expenses, and income lost because of missing work when participating in System of Care activities. Even before the data were collected to provide evidence of the value of youth and family voice, the early pioneers in this movement knew the value they were bringing to systems and services, and they began to advocate for the sustainability of Youth and Family Partner Peer Support. They understood that Youth and Family Partners supported families, parents, and youth with mental health needs in a unique and authentic way and were a key component to the implementation of the system of care core values and principles. In the later 1990s, as Family Partners became more experienced and skilled, and as organizations saw firsthand the value of ongoing family participation, some agencies hired family members or secured their services through contracts. In 2013, there was a Joint Bulletin from the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) stating the efficacy of peer support services and family-driven care. The Joint Bulletin encouraged states across the U.S. to use Medicaid dollars to fund such services. 

“In addition to this national recognition of the value of Youth and Family Partners, some of the greatest evidence of the impact of this type of peer support comes from the impacted youth and family members themselves. As one recent parent I worked with told me, ‘My Family Partner is different from the other people who try to help me. I can talk to her and she listens and really understands because she has had some of the same experiences I have.’”

Family Peer Support Providers (often referred to as Family Partners) have specialized training to equip them to bring their own lived experiences to offer critical support to other parents and caregivers as they navigate mental health services for their children. “Navigating the service systems can be very scary and difficult for families. Being able to share your experience and help other families avoid the barriers as much as possible allows for more youth and families receiving services. When the parents/caregivers go through these trainings, the trainers help empower them to move forward and to share their knowledge and skills with other parents/caregivers. This is so important because this is not a textbook, this is lived experience, and families tend to relate to other families that have walked their walk. They trust because they have experienced similar situations which allows them to take that chance and try services based off of the support they receive from the Family Partner,” said Chandrika Brown, the program’s Collaboration Coordinator. 

Youth Peer Support Partners can be equally valuable in engaging youth in mental health services. Kyle Reece, who serves as the Youth Training Coordinator for NC Voices Amplified, added that, “When young adults are navigating systems and services related to their mental and behavioral health, they long for the opportunity to be empowered and heard. Youth with lived experience need to be in the driver’s seat, so to speak, of their own care as they transition into adulthood, and they should be encouraged to help transform the systems and services that serve them and other young adults. It’s also important that we train Youth Support Partners and Youth Peer Support roles to not only help youth who are struggling navigating these systems, but equip youth with the training and skills necessary to become advocates for themselves and others. That’s what we strive for in this program: a youth-guided, strengths-based approach to youth advocacy, where youth not only have the opportunity to transform youth systems and services, but where they are empowered to become advocates for their own lives and the communities they belong in.”

All this week, we are planning a week-long virtual kickoff through the program’s website (NCVoicesamplified.org) and social media platforms (@NCVoicesAmplified on Facebook and Instagram; @NCAmplified on Twitter). Each day this week, blog posts and videos will be shared to feature program staff members offering details about their work. 

Although NC Voices Amplified is a new program within UNCG, the CYFCP’s Director, Christine Murray, shared that the initiative builds upon UNCG’s long standing commitment to community-engaged work. She said, “Often, universities are viewed as ‘ivory towers’ with experts who are disengaged from real-world problems. NC Voices Amplified is such an exciting program for UNCG because it elevates lived experiences as a valuable type of expertise that can stand alongside research and other forms of evidence that inform mental health practice. For many of life’s difficult experiences, all the formal education in the world can’t help people understand what it’s like to live through it. Youth and Family Peer Support providers can work closely with mental health professionals and other healthcare professionals to help ensure that families have all the support they need when they’re facing mental health challenges.”

 

Contact Us

The Center for Youth, Family and Community Partnerships

University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG)

1001 West Gate City Blvd.

Greensboro, NC 27403

888-846-1066

This program is funded by the NC Department of Health and Human Services Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services and housed at The Center for Youth, Family and Community Partnerships