CHAMPAIGN — A start-up organization aimed at supporting families and children with mental health challenges at home, school and out in the community is seeking members for its inaugural board.
The new Youth & Family Peer Support Alliance will strive to take on the role of youth and family "voice" for children's mental health issues in Champaign County and help them get the services they need, said Regina Crider, its founding member and acting board chairwoman.
The majority of the alliance's leadership will be made up of parents or caregivers who have experience with raising a child or caring for youths with mental health challenges. Others are being sought from within the mental health field and among people in the community who want to work for positive changes.
Families dealing with mental health issues can feel isolated, as though nobody else knows what they're going through, Crider said.
That's where the alliance's network of peer supporters can step in to help provide emotional support and practical help. These supporters have been there in these situations themselves, she said.
The mother of a child with mental health challenges herself, Crider said she had a call recently from another mother going through some issues with a daughter who told her she is tired, and Crider said she understood and will be taking care of that woman's child for a couple of days so the woman can get some rest.
Sometimes, Crider said, parents can find it intimidating or don't know what their rights are when dealing with schools on individualized education plans for their children and could benefit from peer support.
"We will come at it from a community standpoint to educate and empower parents," she said.
The new alliance, a spinoff of the Access Initiative, will aim to become a nonprofit organization, Crider said.
Crider said she has worked in the family advocacy field for 15 years. A minister and associate pastor with Crosssroads of Life Community Church, Rantoul, she is also a former interim program director with the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club.
Board members are being sought to serve one-year terms, and the deadline to apply is April 7. Some of the basic responsibilities will be planning, fund raising, fiscal oversight and community outreach.
Applications can be found at access-initiative2.org.