The Parent to Parent Model

Our Founders
Our Founders

In Pennsylvania, the Parent to Parent model is a one-to-one match between an experienced, mentor parent, called a peer support parent and a parent seeking individualized support from another parent who has been there.

Here at P2P of PA, the Peer Support parent is the lifeline of our program. They are the volunteer families who have experienced the joys and challenges of sharing their lives with individuals with disabilities or special needs and are willing to listen, provide emotional support and information through shared, common experiences to the referred parent.

Research has shown that what a Parent to Parent program offers is unique and can probably not come from any other source.

History of the Parent to Parent Movement

In 1960, in Omaha, Nebraska, a young couple waited two years until their suspicions were confirmed that their son, Dana, was born with the diagnosis of Down Syndrome. For years, the mom, Fran, anguished over unanswered questions concerning her son; would he grow and develop, go to school or ever hold a job?

Dana’s family felt isolated and believed that no one truly understood their concerns surrounding their son. It was another two years until they had the opportunity to speak with another family, as a result of a chance meeting in the grocery store. They also had a child born with the same condition. Fran did not realize how much she had been yearning to speak to another family who could understand the doubt, frustration and worry that she and her husband had been experiencing. It was a new beginning- there was hope. Ten years later, in 1970, Fran realized how much she had learned from the professionals and the other parents who were sharing her journey.  She felt compelled to share her knowledge with other parents just starting the journey.

Working with Shirley, a social worker, from the Greater Omaha ARC and Wolf Wolfensberger, a leader in the field of services for individuals with intellectual and cognitive disabilities, they spent a year developing the Pilot Parents model and planning the first formal Parent to Parent program around their shared beliefs of mutual support among those with similar experiences.

Originally the Pilot Parents program from Nebraska matched only families who had children with cognitive disabilities, but they soon realized that support and the sharing of information was beneficial regardless of the disability or special needs.

In 1975, the Pilot Parents had received a federal grant to train parents and professionals who were interested in developing parent support programs. The number of P2P programs has grown to more than 650 local and statewide programs, with at least one in every state. As of January, 2007 there are 35 statewide Parent to Parent programs.

History of Parent to Parent of Pennsylvania

After meeting at two previous International P2P Conferences , Linda Widman and Helen Aldisert became excited about creating a statewide P2P program  in Pennsylvania. They joined forces and began to lay the foundation to create a statewide network in Pennsylvania. Marilyn Colosomo and Cathy  Bonner were instrumental in starting up and running the first P2P program in PA  (ARC of Allegheny Co)  Then, they were helpful in planning and start up of P2P of PA. They offered their expertise.  Marilyn also assisted with interviewing. A statewide network was created.