A Hand to Hold: Family Connection Helps Families Know and Navigate

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“We want to empower you with the information you need to be the best advocate for your own child, and then for you to help your child become their own best advocate,” said Amy Holbert. “We are here for you throughout that whole journey.”

Family Connection has been supporting caregivers and children in the community for more than 30 years. Its beneficiaries are vast, and the support they give is not limited to a specific diagnosis given to a family member. It extends a hand to all children, from birth to 26 – and their families – who are experiencing learning, mental health and health challenges.

“We serve anybody that would come to us with concerns about their children,” said Holbert, Family Connection’s CEO who invites anyone to reach out to the organization for guidance and information.

A hallmark of Family Connection’s offerings is its peer support programs. Family Connection is a “parent center”; the services offered are provided by people who have been in the shoes of those they are serving. In fact, 85% of its employees are parents of children with a disability.

“These parents have the unique qualities to be able to support other parents,” said Holbert. “I think that helps us connect with families, and that’s why people look for help from us.”

The Family Connection website is chock-full of resources for parents and practitioners.

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“One of the big things we do is make sure parents have the most accurate information available to them, and lots of different places to find it,” said Holbert. “We can help them navigate a system, whether it’s the health care system or the school system or transitioning to the adult world.”

The website is conveniently divided by resources for families, health care, education and training, making the information visitors need convenient to identify and access what they need.

“We’ll have something at some point to offer you as you try to navigate these new systems. We’re the constant,” Holbert said.

Last year Family Connection served 899 families in its health care program, helping them navigate complex resources such as Medicaid and the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which helps families offset the costs of medically complex care. Referrals to the health care program have increased by 54% since 2020.

About the LOOK!™ Photography Exhibit. See the virtual exhibit at familyconnectionsc.org/look/In education programming, Family Connection helps caregivers navigate school resources, traverse early intervention options and create opportunities for students to thrive – even attending individual education plan meetings.

“Our first goal is to empower the parent with the information of: How does that system work and what do you need to know?” said Holbert, pointing out that participation in this program has increased by 134% since 2020. “Those are human beings. That’s 4,935 families reaching out for help in navigating the education system for their children.”

Education and health care providers, as well as families, can make referrals for program support through the Family Connection website. There also are English and Spanish hotlines to receive referrals and offer support and information.

In addition to one-on-one support, Family Connection offers webinars, trainings, conferences and a video series.

“The education and training piece is important. Not all parents need to talk one-on-one to somebody. We make sure we have resources available in a variety of ways so parents and professionals can get the information,” said Holbert. “Understanding these systems is very difficult. It’s like a whole new language.”

In addition, Family Connection is there when you need them – in hospital waiting rooms and after a fresh diagnosis. When you don’t have help to ask for or questions to vocalize, “Family Connection is there for a parent or caregiver at a time when you most need them,” said Holbert.

To learn more, visit familyconnectionsc.org or call at 800-578-8750 for English speaking families or 888-808-7462 for Spanish speaking families.

By Molly Sherman

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