The families of Wildwood’s site-based day habilitation programs at Riverside, New Karner, and Pinecrest have a new opportunity for connection with one another, resource sharing, and information acquisition--the Day Hab Family Connection Network.  

Social worker, Amelia Izzo spearheaded the formation of this group to support individuals in both day services and residential services. It was an important addition to the program.

“After the school years, parents don’t have the same opportunities to connect. We wanted to form a group for that to happen again within Day Supports,” Jean Miller, Riverside Site-manager said.

Amelia is an experienced group facilitator, having conducted therapeutic groups when she worked at The Eddy.  Amelia offers opportunities for both information sharing and emotional support. 

“The Network is a resource for families who are caring for their loved one with a disability. The group was founded last April after families identified a need for community and connection,” Amelia said. 

The beginning phases of the group consisted of talking with families and gauging their interest in a group that would connect them to other families living similar experiences. 

“We asked questions like, ‘What would they want the group to look like?’ ‘Who would attend?’ How do we do this in the middle of a pandemic?’’ Amelia said. “Many parents felt that they hadn’t had this type of connection since their adult child was in school. Once their child transitioned into adulthood, a lot of those valuable relationships seemed to drift and get lost in life's shuffle.” 

The first four sessions were piloted with Riverside families. The group had a steady attendance and a positive impact on families. The parents identified a want to expand the group and invite families from other programs. Sharing experiences seemed to be extremely valuable and with outside perspective, parents felt there was a lot to learn from one another. In November, the group expanded to Pinecrest and New Karner families.

“Once a month the group meets virtually to connect and discuss various topics. Some months we welcome guest speakers and other months we focus on support and building connections,” Amelia said.

 The Day Hab Family Connections Group has invited guest speakers from various Wildwood departments to discuss Community and Individualized Supports, Family Support Services, In-Home Behavioral Supports, and the Residential placement process. They have also worked with outside community agencies such as Mental Health Legal Services. In November the group invited an attorney from the regional office to discuss advance directives, end of life decision making, and guardianship. 

“During the emotional support sessions, parents check in with each other, reflect on how they are doing as a parent, caregiver, full time employee, and whatever other roles they juggle in day to day life. At the end of these sessions, the group will take time to set an intention of something to do for themselves before the next meeting,” Amelia said.