- Last Updated: Monday, 20 October 2014 12:48
The Story of Family to Family Network
Earl J. Brewer, Jr., M.D., and Tina Bentsen-Smith founded Family to Family Network in 1986. Their original mission was to help parents network with other parents, teach parents how the “system” works, and obtain accurate medical information. Dr. Brewer continues to be a staunch supporter of Family to Family Network. Both had a vision for children and families and the love to give their dream to a couple of Moms with a similar vision.
It only took a couple of Moms with a vision for their children to begin to change “the course”. In 1993, two Moms came together because of their dreams for their young children who had been diagnosed with a disability. Both families were in similar circumstances. They had dreamed of the lives their children would lead as they carried them throughout their pregnancies. Would they look like Mom or Dad? Would they be athletic, gifted or both? Where would they choose to go to college? The dream never included the life they would encounter with a diagnosis. Luckily, they quickly realized that dreams would come true; they would just have to take a different path. Those early conversations amongst mothers are what has become Family to Family Network.our_story
Family to Family Network has a vision for ALL children where education, and families working together are making dreams become realities. We know that our children must have a good educational foundation and experiences within their home communities to prepare them for independent living and accomplishment of their goals.
Family to Family Network has developed a number of programs that provide families with information and referral services, education and support through networking.
Currently, we provide opportunities for families to come together for purposes of education and to meet other families who have gone before them. We also publish a quarterly newsletter, F2F News, that is filled with success stories, articles of inspiration and current information that families of children with disabilities and/or chronic illness can benefit from. We also distribute a monthly listing of local events that are of interest to families through our E-Digest.
Additionally, we hold Educational Events that teach families how to work with their schools to insure that their children get that good educational foundation. We have a Resource Center for families with computer access, resources and a Lending Library.
In 2000, The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities funded Family to Family Network to create a resource for families and schools called, Connections...Creating a Positive School Culture by Uniting Families and Schools. Connections was developed to train families in our home community and eventually across Texas on how to work with schools for the benefit of our children. Our goal was to give families a consistent and correct message that they can use.
We also received funding from the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities to administer a program called Partners in Policymaking. Partners is a nationally renowned leadership development course for families of children with disabilities and adults with disabilities. The Partners era came to an end in 2006, but lived on in The Disability Leadership Network of Houston (DLNH), a Houston based leadership development course administered by Family to Family Network. Funding was provided for DLNH by The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities through the end of May 2012.
In addition, we are proud of our Family Friends program, an intergenerational mentoring program that was originally funded by the National Council on Aging. We continued to recruit and train volunteers (age 21+) and match them with a child with a disability until Oct 31, 2010 when Family to Family Network could no longer sustain the program.
In 2006, Family to Family Network was approached by The Texas Education Agency to serve as a neutral organization working on behalf of the Texas Continuous Improvement Process (TCIP) under the auspices of the Texas Education Agency and Region 9 Education Service Center to assist in fulfilling the goals of the State and of the Parent Coordination Network committee. Texas Project FIRST was born and can be seen at www.texasprojectfirst.org.
Since Family to Family Network began, we have served more than 80,000 people and many families are realizing the dreams where children are fully participating members of their school and home communities. They are members of scouts, sports teams and arts programs. They are typical children with needs for accommodations. Many now have graduated and are advancing on to employment, higher education and independent living, with and without supports. Nationally, according to the 2001 Harris Poll, 68% of adults with disabilities are unemployed and dependent upon “the system.” The families of Family to Family Network are working hard to change the tide and raise children who work, love and live in the communities they choose.
Why We Do What We Do
By: Eve Cugini
The question of “WHY” we do it is always close at heart. Why create Family to Family Network in 1990 and work to continue to grow and reach more families when our kids are doing well? Obviously we began this trek because of our children. I guess that is still the reason why we continue to do it. We want to be the best parents that we can be and open doors for our children that once were closed. But, why Family to Family Network?
What sets us apart?
There are a couple of things that our young families were looking for when our friendships began and we became focused on the lives that our children would lead. The first thing was to learn all that we could. Some of our first questions were, “Will they have friends?” and “Will our insurance help with all of these bills?“ Our thoughts were pretty basic when the kids were little. Many people have provided us with the wealth of information that has become F2F’s Resource Center. It is great to see new families use the information that many of us have gathered along the way.
What was most important on our journey was to get connected to other families. It was vital because no matter what the value of the insight or information, only families “living the life” truly understand the day-to-day struggles and the joys in the smallest successes.
Additionally, our focus is to first help our children, those little people living in our homes. By opening doors for our children, we open doors for scores of others. It’s the notion of success builds success and our children are leading the way! We know that doors that remain closed only make our jobs harder.
Change happens by having a shared vision and working with the people that can make the difference. It’s all about building community where our children are an integral part. We are not adversaries, but partners, friends and teachers because we are the experts on our kids. We have a vision and it will take many of us to make those dreams become a reality. The WHY is because we can’t not do it. What will happen if we stop? These are our children and our responsibility and it is the right thing to do.