Parenttoparent programs

Some pediatric hospitals, in conjunction with parent support groups such as Candle-lighters, have developed parent-to-parent visitation programs. The purpose of these visits is for veteran parents to provide one-on-one support for newly diagnosed families. The services provided by the veteran parent can be informational, emotional, or logistical. The visiting parent can also:

• Empathize with the newly diagnosed parents

• Help notify family and friends

• Help overcome loneliness

• Ease feelings of isolation

• Provide hospital tours

• Write down parents' questions for the medical team

• Advise on sources of financial aid

• Explain unfamiliar medical terms

• Be available by phone for any problems that arise

• Supply lots of smiles and hugs, but most of all, hope

Newly diagnosed families can ask if the hospital has a parent-to-parent program. If not, ask to speak to the parent leader of the local support group. Often, this person will ask a veteran parent to visit you at the hospital. Many, many parents are more than willing to visit, as they know only too well what those first weeks in the hospital are like. They are often accompanied by their child who has completed therapy, rosy-cheeked and full of energy, a living beacon of hope.

I am the parent consultant for our region. Among the services I provide are: meet with all newly diagnosed families; give a packet of information to each child or teen with cancer; continue to visit the families whenever they return to the hospital; educate families about the various local resources; provide moral support; stay with children during painful procedures if the parents can't; organize and present all of the school programs; liaison with schools for school reentry; organize and send out monthly reminders for Candlelighters meetings, child support group meetings, and sibling group meetings; send out birthday cards to kids on treatment; serve as activities director at the summer camp; and generally try to help out each family in any way possible. My job is a part-time, paid position funded through the local independent agency, Cancer Services of Allen County, Inc.

For step-by-step suggestions on how to create, organize, recruit volunteers, and work with the hospital to create a parent-to-parent visitation program, obtain the booklet Making Contact from Candlelighters (see Appendix D).

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