RCPA Member AFN Continues as Statewide System for Mental Health, Families

RCPA Member AFN Continues as Statewide System for Mental Health, Families

PITTSBURGH, PAAllegheny Family Network (AFN) will continue in its efforts of transforming mental health systems across Pennsylvania with the continuation of its statewide program PA Parent and Family Alliance (“Parent Alliance”), a resource and parent peer network aimed at providing one on one support to families of children who are struggling with social, emotional, behavioral or mental health challenges. With a Statewide Family Network grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the support of the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) the Parent Alliance will begin its fourth year as the statewide network in August 2021, touching the lives of tens of thousands of families across the Commonwealth.

The Parent Alliance, established in 2018, has expanded and enhanced family voice in the children’s behavioral health and related systems for the past two and a half years with a statewide alliance among family organizations and family leaders. The Parent Alliance is connecting families, family organizations, service providers and stakeholders to increase knowledge of families’ needs and improve skills and policies that will support families and improve the lives of children and youth.

“Our state-wide organization began when families of children with social, emotional, behavioral and mental health challenges began uniting in their local communities to support one another in their efforts to access services,” said Christina Paternoster, Project Director, of the Parent Alliance. “Some of the families banded together to form their own family-run organizations, some worked alone, and some joined existing agencies and organizations where they were able to share the strength and wisdom that only comes from experience. They had hopes that all families would be valued and embraced as the experts that they indeed were in knowing and understanding the needs of their loved ones. These hardworking, active, and loving caregivers led the way for what is now the vision of PA Parent and Family Alliance.”

When the world went virtual and children began navigating distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Parent Alliance pivoted to make their website www.paparentandfamilyalliance.org, a hub for all things that parents who are raising a child who is struggling may need. Educating more than 3,500 people in the last year, webinars were carefully chosen to help families in real-time with the issues that they were facing. Once on the Parent Alliance’s website, parents are able to find tip sheets on a wide array of topics and helpful resources.

The Parent Alliance reach and support for parents and primary caregivers has grown greatly in its third year. More than 10,000 people read the biweekly update and tip sheets have been viewed, downloaded, and shared more than 13,000 times by parents and providers across the Commonwealth. In addition, the Parent Alliance has offered one-on-one support to more than 150 families across Pennsylvania, many of whom are in underserved rural areas of the state.

Not only is it the Parent Alliance’s goal to support families, but it also educates service providers on how to best support the families that they work with.

“We are very excited to be able to continue the work and presence for families that the PA Parent and Family Alliance has spent the past two and a half years establishing,” said Ruth Fox, CEO of Allegheny Family Network. “The goal is to create a standard in the mental health and behavioral health systems so that parents, agencies and legislators are able to better define the current issues and needs for our families, so we are able to better utilize resources and make a bigger, more equitable impact.”

“Our Family Support Partners and agency leadership knows first-hand what it is like to raise a child with mental health or behavioral issues. We know these parents have specific needs of support – and working with the state and related agencies, we can support other organizations in their goals to decrease stress, empower parents, better utilize funding and resources and, most importantly, help the families in the Commonwealth.”


Misty Chybrzynski Woody
Community Development Specialist
412-438-6130 | cell: 878-302-5508


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