New Jersey is in the midst of a silent mental health crisis concerning some of its youngest residents. These residents are living in some of the most underserved areas of the state. Requisite services are not available in all the areas and this is exacerbating the mental health issues of these children and youth. While the state of New Jersey has taken steps to rectify the lack of accessible mental health services for children, parents continue to struggle with access and there are still little to no public educational programs in our communities for parents who must navigate these systems.
The Parents Empowerment Academy is the flagship program of the New Jersey Parents Caucus (NJPC). The Academy offers a myriad of free workshops, trainings, and certifications to parents and caregivers on a variety of topics related to improving the quality of life for families raising children with emotional and behavioral challenges. The New Jersey Parents’ Caucus believes that to help underprivileged children with mental health challenges, many parents and caregivers must first learn how to advocate for their children and families.
In addition to the challenges of raising a child with special needs, parents and caregivers must navigate a complex web of child-serving agencies to access appropriate information and services for their children, in order to ensure that they remain safe at home, successful in school, and in their local communities. The Professional Parent Advocacy Program (PPA), under the umbrella of NJPC’s Parents Empowerment Academy, gives parents and caregivers the information and understanding needed to negotiate with government agencies and other system partners, through the development of leadership skills and professional advocacy abilities. A small percentage of parents and caregivers who are trained are referred by child serving organizations, most notably our child welfare and criminal justice systems. However, the majority of parents and caregivers that register for the training are through self-referral, past trainees and outreach.
The PPA training comprises 15 modules including:
- Professional Parent Advocacy
- Professionalism and Communication Skills
- Empowering vs. Enabling
- Conflict Resolution Skills & the Power of Persuasion
- Understanding Childhood Mental Health Challenges and the DSM 5
- How Knowledge of the Brain Influences Adult/Child Interaction
- Navigating the Special Education System and the IEP Process
- Developing a Transitional Plan • Zero Tolerance & IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
- NCLB – No Child Left Behind
- Understanding the Juvenile Justice System in New Jersey
- Infusing Family Involvement in DCP&P – NJs Child Welfare System
- Cultural Competency and Multiculturalism in the Child-Serving Community
- Collaborating with NJ Child-serving Organizations
- Train the Trainer