By Carly Graber, Youth Partner, Family Youth Roundtable - Family and Youth Support Partners have been hired as professionals across US since 1985. In 2006, the Parent Partner Assessment Workgroup (PPAW) was formed to gather information regarding the state of family-to-family support across the nation. The PPAW found a significant lack of standardized criteria for family support providers, their training, their supervision, and research about the results of their work. This lack of standardization was linked to several other notable limitations, including an absence of public evidence regarding the value of Family and Youth Support Partners, limited ability to assure consistent competencies among Family and Youth Support Partners, and difficulty in formally recognizing the specialized knowledge, skills, and abilities of Family and Youth Support Partners.
At the national level, the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health has been working to develop standards and a capacity for professional certification, however much of the burden for supporting a specialized training and certification process for Family and Youth Support Partners rests on individual states and/or local communities. Some of the steps that have been recommended for achieving a successful certification process include: consultation between local, state and national experts; development of a standardized matrix to identify key elements, skill sets, outcomes and tools; and agreement on a model for training and coaching at all stages of service delivery.
In January of 2012, staff from the Mississippi Department of Mental Health’s System of Care grantee, Mississippi Transitional Outreach Project, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) MS, Mississippi Families As Allies for Children’s Mental Health (MSFAA) and Youth Engagement Solutions (YES) collaborated with Family & Youth Roundtable in the development of a continuing education process for family member Peer Support Specialists as well as a curriculum for transition-aged Peer Support Specialists. The Peer Support Specialists positions have been operationalized as a component of the Mississippi Department of Mental Health service delivery system. The Peer Support Specialists are certified through the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, Division of Professional Licensure and Certification following completion of core training and satisfactorily meeting other certification criteria. Specialized continuing education and coaching support will be provided by a family or youth and professional partner team, effectively emulating partnership in action. Moreover, this partnership model institutionalizes the Children’s System of Care values of family-driven, youth-guided services and ensures family and youth are included in the service delivery process.
For more information about the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, Mississippi Transitional Outreach Project, contact Joe Maury at (601) 359-6216. Family & Youth Roundtable and assistance in the development of a community-driven certification process for peers in children’s services, contact (619) 546-5852.