Family Advocate Helps Parents, Schools Manage Behavioral Issues

    Posted 01/24/2013

    Parenthood is a tough job, and it’s even tougher when dealing with behavioral issues. Add to that the stress of work and relationships and it’s easy to become overwhelmed by it all.

    AspenPointe’s Family Advocacy program can help parents manage their child’s behavioral healthcare and ensure they have access to resources.
    Crystal Hawkes is a family advocate with AspenPointe’s Child and Family Services, and she works with schools and parents to manage behavioral issues with children who are AspenPointe clients.
    “During the school year, I assist parents in getting services established at school that will support our client’s mental health symptoms, along with helping provide access to resources,” Hawkes said. “Often, our clients will display inappropriate behaviors, like making noise, disturbing others, defiance, and boundary issues, which can be symptoms of their mental health diagnoses. My job is to empower parents with skills to advocate for their children in school.”
    Often, parents are not aware of the variety of services available to them, and Hawkes can help them navigate the path to finding appropriate care for their children.
    “I give parents information to educate themselves on the various services available to help them decide which service would help their child, Hawkes said. 
    Those services include Response to Interventions, functional behavior assessments and behavior intervention plans. 
    “I enjoy helping people,” Hawkes said. “It’s very rewarding to hear the pride in a parent’s voice when they have successfully found answers to their questions and/or advocated for their child without my assistance.”
    Hawkes efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Harrison School District 2 recognized her continued dedication and commitment to special education students with a certificate of excellence award.
    Aaron Simpson, the father of a 13-year-old AspenPointe client, is very appreciative of the support Hawkes provides.
    “I spent six years struggling with the school system,” Simpson said. “Once I was referred to Crystal (Hawkes), she became my voice in the system.  She has helped me to assert myself in a more positive way. Over the last year and a half, I’ve seen massive growth in my daughter, both personally and in school.”
    Another key benefit of the parent advocacy program is through the weekly group meetings hosted at AspenPointe, where parents can both learn from Hawkes’ and collaborate with one another to share experiences and learn from each other’s failures and successes.  Some sessions include presentations by community partners such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, among others.
    “We all have different issues, but we learn from each other,” said Brandy Gonzalez. “She (Hawkes) teaches us how to advocate for our kids, so that eventually we can do it for ourselves.”
    Gonzalez has two children who have been AspenPointe clients, and she has learned to work with the system rather than fight against it.
    “We have a lot of resources available to us as parents,” Gonzalez said. “Crystal helps us learn more about our rights, and she teaches us about the laws regarding special needs children.”
    Families are referred to the family advocacy program through AspenPointe clinicians, and once they’re part of the program, Hawkes works with parents and staff at schools throughout the region to ensure access to care.
    “When school staff members know a student is receiving services at AspenPointe, they will encourage parents to seek out my assistance,” Hawkes said. “About 75 percent of my time is spent working with families regarding school issues.  The balance of my time is assisting with our Respite Program and securing access to resources.”
    AspenPointe’s Respite Program is an intensive outpatient program offered during the summer, spring and winter breaks from school.  The program offers participants four hours of therapeutic groups to help them work through their behavioral health issues.
    For more information about the Family Advocacy program, call AspenPointe’s Call Center at 572-6100.
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