Mom2Mom 2013 Unity Events
“I’m Here for You”: Mom2Mom Celebrates the Unique Bonds Among Mothers of Children with Special Needs

Callers to Mom2Mom peer counseling helpline (877-914-MOM2) meet their
peer counselors for the first time during annual Mothers Day event.

PISCATAWAY, NJ—“Mom2Mom makes me feel like I’m not on an island,” says Marie Reich of Rutherford, the mother of a 12-year-old autistic son. Mom2Mom is a free 24/7 helpline for mothers of children with special needs throughout New Jersey that is staffed by mothers who also have children with special needs and have been trained as peer counselors.

Mom2Mom is unique among programs that offer support to families of autistic children. Where many organizations provide a valuable focus on the educational and developmental needs of the children, Mom2Mom stands alone by concentrating on the emotional well being of the parents, whose burdens go beyond those faced by other parents. Over the past year, Reich has formed a telephonic bond with her counselor, Mary Beth Walsh, whose son is also autistic.

“Mom2Mom is not just a helpline that you call once,” Reich says. “Mary Beth regularly calls back to check on me. I love my family. I love my friends. But they don’t always understand like a mom of a child with special needs can.”

Reich is one of 40 callers who traveled on May 6 to the Mom2Mom call center in Piscataway to meet their counselors face-to-face for the first time after getting to know and rely on them only as voices on the phone. It was a celebration of the power of reciprocal peer support during Mom2Mom’s annual pre-Mothers Day “Unity Event.”

While most callers are mothers of children on the autism spectrum, Mom2Mom also matches callers who have children with a variety of mental and physical disabilities, as well as diseases such as cancer, with peer counselors who have children with similar conditions or who are similar in age. Spanish-speaking callers are matched with Spanish-speaking counselors. Cheryl Greenwald of Springfield contacted Mom2Mom after her 10-year-old was diagnosed with leukemia. She was matched with Amy Tarabokia, whose son battled cancer for years but is now cancer-free. “Amy,” Greenwald says, “gives me hope.”

And it’s not just mothers who benefit from Mom2Mom. This event marks the first “Mothers Day” celebration that Charles Rockford of Jersey City has attended. Rockford, a widower raising an 18-year-old son who is on the autism spectrum, came to meet his counselor, Dawn Dreyer Valovcin, who has been an invaluable source of support for the past year. “It’s not always easy to find a support group, people who understand what I’m going through with my son, but Dawn does,” he says.

Helpline callers were introduced to their counselors at the event by Dr. Allison Blake, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF). Over the past year, Commissioner Blake has been attending Mom2Mom events and has been moved by the positive relationships she has seen develop between the peer counselors and their callers. It was with her support that Mom2Mom’s helpline and programs were able to expand the reach of their services to parents statewide this past January. “Mom2Mom is a service that is paramount to parents of children with special needs in New Jersey,” Blake says. “Clearly, the value is undeniable to both the callers and the counselors who answer the call. Both are facing unique challenges; yet they share a common bond—and that is a spirit of pure courage.”

On Friday, May 10, Mom2Mom held a second Unity Event in Newark for mothers who attend the Mom2Mom support group.

By dialing the Mom2Mom helpline (877-914-MOM2), a caller receives the following services:

Mom2Mom Peer Counseling Support: Moms of special needs children trained in peer counseling and crisis support will offer peer support, explain resources and explore the needs of helpline callers. Mom2Mom peer support is also available via live chat online through the website (www.mom2mom.us.com) and the Mom2Mom Facebook page offers a forum for mothers and counselors to connect and share resources.

Mom2Mom Clinical Assessment: Mom2Mom clinicians assist as part of the team of clinical professionals available for telephone assessment and gauge the depression, anxiety and family and marital issues, etc., that may be impacting their lives.

Mom2Mom Network: A Mom2Mom database of specially trained service providers is available for referrals for callers’ mental health needs.

Mom2Mom Support Groups: Mom peer supporters are available for monthly Mom2Mom support group meetings in local communities.

About Mom2Mom:
Mom2Mom [(877)-914-MOM2] is a 24-hour peer counseling helpline for mothers of children with special needs throughout New Jersey directed by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey–University Behavioral HealthCare. Mom2Mom is staffed by mothers of children with special needs who have been trained as peer counselors and are supported by mental health clinicians. The program consists of a confidential, toll-free 24-hour helpline, online “live chat” via the website, Mom2Mom network of resources, Mom2Mom support groups and resiliency events.
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