Meet Jessica, Parent Advocate

When Jessica was a student completing her courses for human and social services at Florida SouthWestern State College, she had an internship with the Child Advocacy Department at Golisano Children’s Hospital. It was there she learned about parenting classes, mental health first aid training and pediatric mental health resources available from Kids’ Minds Matter.

As part of her internship, she was charged with helping to develop a parent support group for children with disabilities. While these efforts were sidelined temporarily by the pandemic when classes and meetings went virtual, the knowledge of the resources available became a lifeline for Jessica. When her internship ended and she graduated, she became a parent member of the support group.

She has four children, three of them with special needs, ages 15, 13, 11 and 9. The children have issues ranging from ADHD, aggression, intellectual disability, seizures, autism, hallucinations, bipolar and reactive attachment disorder.

Through the Dignified Discipline and Parenting Children with Special Needs classes, she and her husband learned to change their perspective from trying to control the childrens’ behavior to treating them with dignity and providing them autonomy and the ability to make their own choices, even if they make mistakes.

For Jessica, the educational and support programs offered through Kids’ Minds Matter have opened resources of knowledge and education. She is part of the parents’ support group and has made lifelong friends she talks to daily. She has been able to connect with other parents who have similar challenges and help others navigate what she has already gone through.

“It was really lovely just watching all of the parents connect and help each other,” she said. “Sometimes family members don’t understand, and teachers or other friends haven’t been through the same things.”

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Founded in 2016, Kids’ Minds Matter is a unified movement in Southwest Florida dedicated to advancing pediatric mental and behavioral health services. By developing clinical pathways to screen and treat patients, enhancing public awareness through education, and lobbying for systemic change and sustainable funding, Kids’ Minds Matter aims to align mental health providers, local agencies, the judicial system, law enforcement, schools and faith-based organizations. Kids’ Minds Matter is managed through the Lee Health Foundation.

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It’s Time to Act!

Did you attend the virtual Town Hall about the state of mental health in our community? (If not, view this impactful meeting by clicking below.) You can participate in improving mental health treatment in Southwest Florida in so many ways!