By Sarah Castro-Grubb, Parent Partner, Victor Community Support Services- Barstow
Being a parent partner has many different meanings to so many people. According to Childwelfare.gov, the definition of a parent partner is someone who has firsthand experience with the child welfare systems and has exhibited exceptional qualities in their own efforts to develop viable permanency plans for their children. Expanding on this basic definition, a parent partner takes pride in the service they provide, advocates for others, serves as a voice of reason and a confidant for families, and, most often, they are survivors themselves. Sometimes they are seen as the role that bridges the gaps between multiple systems, professionals and family members. Being a parent partner can be difficult and rewarding at the same time, with times of anguish, disappointment, accomplishment, excitement and celebration.
A wonderful example illustrating the powerful and important role of parent partners is the Points of Lights/Disneyland program implemented by the Victor Community Support Services Wraparound program in Barstow, CA and obtained primarily by parent partners. The Points of Lights/Disneyland program makes it possible for some of our youth’s dreams to come true. In order to make this wonderful experience available to Wraparound families, the VCSS Barstow program puts on events for families in the community and in the office setting approximately every 3 months to promote and model healthy family interactions. During these events, the team identifies a family that worked extremely hard at meeting goals and/or participating in the Wraparound process.
The selection process requires staff members to all come together to agree and “sponsor” the family, based on a brief description of how and why the family should receive the award. Most of the families and youth have never experienced such a gift as being part of the Disneyland experience. Fulfilling the dream of going to the “Happiest Place on Earth” is an amazing experience for me. Being able to celebrate with families and connect them to such rich experiences makes it all worthwhile and truly demonstrates the Victor mission of a parent partner being a “catalyst for sustained improvement in the lives of those we touch.”
The parent partner role has helped shape who I am today. It allows me to let go of judgements, be vulnerable for growth, meet our families where they are and most importantly it’s helped me understand that we all have a story to tell.