New Program Helps Families Navigate Many Systems for Children with Special Needs

Are you a family or guardian with a child who has special needs? Do you get lost and confused trying to get help for your child? Don’t know where to go or who to speak with? Then this free program is for you.

The Family Road Map program was started by Wendy Besman from Tennessee in 2007. As a parent of a son diagnosed with both Autism and Bipolar Disorder, she faced all the challenges that many others had in an effort to get help for her son. She decided to put together a multi-faceted “roadmap” for people in the same situation. It’s grown into a nationwide program.

This is not just for nuclear families. As we know, a family may include anyone who is charged with caring for someone else. In this case, family is defined by the person who needs resources. It may be foster parents, adoptive parents, guardian ad litems, extended family members, and others.

Family Road Map is offered in Broward County through the South Florida Wellness Network (SFWN). Family Road Map provides training for families and caregivers of children under age 18 with any kind of special needs. Made possible by a one-year, private grant to SFWN, the purpose is to explain applicable complicated systems of care in which families find and receive help. Trained facilitators guide guardians through behavioral health, medical, insurance, and education areas in an easy-to-understand format. Instructors also address the justice and foster care systems. All trainers are certified and regularly updated through the Team Up for Families Collaborative (TUFF), a division of the Family Road Map Institute.

As a part of the curriculum, participants gain information through a group of activities using worksheets, a Guide Book, and Activity Book that define concepts the caregiver can use in daily life. They learn proper terms used, treatment team models, procedures, laws, and how to find support. The books are “loaded with family-tested strategies”, while the worksheets are to log data regarding the child’s needs and behaviors along with notes about the systems of care.

Lisa Math oversees the Family Road Map program in Broward County. Her personal experience with her daughter’s special needs led Lisa to devote herself full time – giving up two careers in the process – to manage the many resources needed. She eventually became a Certified Recovery Peer Specialist in order to help others in the same position. “I am passionate about being a part of the Family Road Map program. This program has the ability to transform lives. Family members and caregivers leave with more than just knowledge – they leave with a feeling of empowerment so that they can make a difference in the lives of their children,” she commented.

To obtain dates and register for training sessions, call 954-533-0585.

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