“When you know better you do better.”
- Maya Angelou
When a child’s behavior raises flags to medical professionals, parents or other care givers, it’s rare to find one reason to explain that child’s actions. Many times, a combination of factors have played a part. The Family Navigator Program specializes in in-depth child and family assessments that help determine what services are needed to address the issues in the most efficient way possible, while empowering parents and caregivers to make decisions about their child’s care.
The program provides one-on-one advocacy, resources, and education for families who have concerns about their child’s behavior and development. Navigators Sue Meeks and Ellen Soroka, who are both Registered Nurses, work with families to address questions about Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD, speech delays, traumatic stress, and other concerns.
“Before these kids are labeled with a diagnosis that may or may not be correct or complete, our goal is for the parents to understand things like the evaluation process, the treatment options and their role,” said Meeks, the developer of the program, which is housed in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Community Health Program. “Our goal is to have the right diagnosis made the first time.”
“I believe we can overcome barriers and open the door to quality services for children and families in our community."
- Sue Meeks, RN, C
Using a culturally sensitive, family-centered approach, Meeks and Soroka help parents and caregivers identify the type and sequence of services they prefer. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to quality care. It takes time and energy to understand a family's history, experiences and needs. To do that, navigators create a relationship built on trust and a mutual desire to identify and access services that will best serve each child and family.
In many cases, this bond has brought to the surface a long-time untreated case of trauma or mental illness that has impacted the family environment. The relationship creates a space where parents feel free to voice their concerns and gain a sense of empowerment to participate in a child’s health care decisions. It is the concern about a child that brings them into the program, but the family is always kept in focus.
Through the support of several grant programs, like HRSA’s Rural Health Care Services Outreach Grant and SAMHSA’s Project LAUNCH, participation in the program is free for the families. But no matter the origin of funds, the goal is always the same – advocating, educating, and providing access to early intervention and treatment services for children and their families.
Types of Services
After the initial comprehensive in-take process, Meeks and Soroka offer the family recommendations on how to proceed. They may work with the parents to access a medical home, specialty services like the Interdisciplinary Assessment Team, individual mental health providers, special needs school services, pediatric specialty clinics, Help Me Grow, or other local, and regional service providers. Navigators work with parents to expand their parenting skills, understand the developmental needs of their child, and assist them in accessing the right services at the right place. Parents and caregivers will soon have access to a Resource Room, which will offer Internet access, up-to-date articles, videos, and books.
“By listening to parents’ concerns and offering culturally appropriate education, information and ongoing advocacy and support, I believe we can overcome barriers and open the door to quality services for children and families in our community,” Meeks said.
To schedule an appointment, contact:
OU-HCOM Community Health Programs
068 Grosvenor Hall
Athens, OH 45701