As of November 15, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital’s family leadership program team launched the HB Family Support Network (FSN), a private, moderated Facebook group created to provide a sense of community and support for families and caregivers of kids and youth who currently receive or have received services from Holland Bloorview.
Cheryl Peters is one of many trained family mentors involved in the development and moderation of this new platform. Her connection to Holland Bloorview began well over a decade ago when her daughter became a client at the age of two. Having recently moved from Nova Scotia, Peters searched for a way to find community during an otherwise lonely and isolating experience. This journey led her to volunteer as part of the family leadership program, a client and family-centred family engagement initiative consisting of 120+ volunteers. The initiative aims to create partnerships between Holland Bloorview families and staff in order to consider client and family needs in all organizational decisions and changes.
“We knew no one in Ontario who had a child with a disability. I started [volunteering] so I could meet other families who were like mine. It was very isolating to not know anybody.”
When an open call for volunteers appeared on social media, she enthusiastically took the opportunity and never looked back.
“I’m very passionate about advocacy and making things easier for other parents. That has been what I have strived to do since starting the volunteering process in 2011.”
The HB Family Support Network, under the family leadership program, will help to:
- Provide a supportive online space for families and caregivers to ask questions, share common lived experiences, seek advice and access resources
- Share information on family workshops, events, practical guidance, resource navigation tips and relevant community resources
- Connect families, who are in search of 1:1 peer support, with a trained family mentor from Holland Bloorview
To help promote safety and security, families will require approval for admission. The platform will be moderated by trained family mentors and administrated by the family leadership program team.
Clara Ho, manager, client and family-centred care and partnerships at Holland Bloorview, hopes this new initiative will contribute to the overall well-being of Holland Bloorview families and caregivers. “The goal is for families to feel less alone in their caregiving journey,” says Ho. “We want to provide a space where families can feel more connected to others who share similar experiences, and where caregivers, who are at different points of their journeys, can support each other.”
For Peters, a sense of community became an integral part of her experience with Holland Bloorview. She wants other families to know they don’t have to do it alone.
“That peer connection is so important and speaking with someone who gets it is so valuable,” says Peters. “I realize now how vitally important friends are for that sounding board.”
For more information and to request admission to the HB Family Support Network, visit our website.