Parents Reaching Out (PRO) provides support, training and tools for families of and youth with disabilities or complex medical needs. Our goal is to help family members and youth become their own best advocates in the areas of early childhood, education and healthcare.
We help families by:
Offering individual support to families of and/or youth with disabilities in the areas of early childhood, education and healthcare.
Presenting no-cost trainings workshops and support groups.
Providing family-friendly materials and publications related to early childhood, education and health.
The mission of Parents Reaching Out is to enhance positive outcomes for families and children in New Mexico through informed decision-making, advocacy, education, and resources. Parents Reaching Out provides networking opportunities for families to connect with and support each other.
THE EARLY YEARS: BY FAMILIES, FOR FAMILIES 1980-1986
Parents Reaching Out began in 1980 with about 10 to 15 parents, all of whom had a child with a disability enrolled in one of the early intervention programs. These few parents met on a regular basis at a small counseling center to share stories and provide support to one another in an effort to share mutual experiences including the joys and demands of having a child with disabilities or complex medical needs. After hearing how parents were given the news of their child’s disability and how they searched for the services that their family and child needed, this small group of parents decided they wanted to form an organization that could help other families in similar situations. They wanted to provide current information on what services were available. They envisioned a center that would serve as a clearinghouse for resources, information, assistance, and training while building connections for families whose children had a similar diagnosis.
Throughout that first year, this small group of parents worked diligently to reach parents, listen to their stories, help them connect with services, and provide them with information all the while pursuing incorporation and nonprofit status. The Board of Directors was born out of this group and officers were elected. A freelance artist volunteered to develop the logo and a freelance writer helped to get PRO’s first newsletter to press in 1981. In the mid-1980’s PRO was funded to create the Special Kids Project, a legislative effort to lower the school-age to three for children with developmental disabilities. In 1986, PRO received funding to provide training for parents in case management and financial planning, helped communities develop respite care programs, and helped form local parent support groups as well as a statewide parent network.
BUILDING STATEWIDE CAPACITY 1989-2000
In 1989, PRO was awarded a grant through the US Department of Education to serve as New Mexico?s statewide Parent Training and Information Center, a designation we are proud to have held ever since. In 1993, the organization formalized the Parent-to-Parent project supported by a grant from the NM Department of Health. In 1998, capacity increased once more to extend the organization’s reach to develop a federally funded Parent Information and Resource Center (PIRC) for families and children at risk of school failure. In 2000, the Families as Faculty Program was developed out of a pilot project to have families provide education and share their stories of navigating health care and education systems with future medical students and educators.
IMPACTING THE FUTURE 2000-2020
In 2005, PRO began offering an Annual Leadership Conference for families to learn and network together which continues to this day. In 2017, with support from the Family, Infant, and Toddler Program, PRO added a Leadership Academy to the Conference’s offerings.
PRO’s services grew to include a Family Liaison embedded at the Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the University of New Mexico Hospitals. Parents Reaching Out serves as New Mexico’s Family Voices affiliate and was funded during this period to serve as New Mexico’s Family-to-Family Health Care Information Center, an ongoing designation supported by the US Department of Health. In 2019, PRO, together with our colleagues at Arizona’s Raising Special Kids, PRO was designated as one of the first tribal Family-to-Family Information Centers, serving the Navajo Nation and other tribal communities.
In 2015, PRO began serving youth with disabilities in order to build skills in self-advocacy and an understanding of the systems in which youth often found themselves. This work has continued with several different partners culminating in the Forward@14 Transition program.
UPWARD AND ONWARD 2021 – Future
We are proud of our many partnerships and accomplishments and look forward to working collaboratively into the future on behalf of families of and youth with disabilities and complex medical needs.
The staff at Parents Reaching Out are here to support and guide you within the early childhood, education, or health care systems. PRO?s staff bring the perspective of ?lived experience??as parents of children with disabilities or complex medical needs, as siblings, or as individuals living with disabilities. This lived experience enables PRO?s staff to authentically and compassionately understand both your needs and the systems in which you find yourself. Feel free to contact us with any questions, concerns, or ways that we can be of support.
Board of Directors
The Board of Directors supports the work of PRO and provides mission-based leadership and strategic governance. PRO’s Board Members serve a two-year term and are eligible for re-appointment. Board meetings are held quarterly. Service on PRO’s Board of Directors is without remuneration. Parents of children (up to age 26) eligible for special education are particularly encouraged to apply for board membership. Board members have a commitment to and understanding of family concerns in New Mexico, a commitment to inclusion and diversity, and the highest levels of personal integrity.
Dr. Dawnita Blackmon-Mosley