Empower family caregivers and young adults with the practical skills they need to become the best CARE COORDINATORS of their children and youth, acting as full partners with providers in making decisions about wellness and education services.
We do this by teaching people simple, practical “family-tested” strategies that have worked for family members who share some of their experiences. for navigating systems. We organize these strategies under a five-point Guiding Star–five skills that make it easier to navigate any system, anywhere, under any conditions. Rules change. Programs change. Players change. The Guiding Star doesn’t change.
In 2006, Wendy Besmann was a frantic mom trying to find services for a child with autism and bipolar disorder in a southern state with very few resources in fragmented health and education systems. (More about Wendy’s story.) She began to notice patterns in her interactions with service providers–things such as miscommunication, breakdowns in the flow of information, failure to understand and respect each others’ roles and skills– that got in the way of getting good services. She talked to a lot of other parents, therapists, advocates, health professionals, educators, and other providers about this problem. She began to collect up simple strategies used by parents to get through system barriers. After a while, it became clear that these strategies fell into just FIVE categories. If a parent did just FIVE basic things, life would get much, much easier. (We call those skills “The Guiding Star”.)
In 2006, Wendy put together a pilot project to create a navigation handbook for families in the state of Tennessee, with the help of 16 local and state agencies. It later became Team Up for Your Child, a 100-page guidebook full of practical charts, checklists, and strategies for navigating systems. Out of that work came Team Up for Families (TUFF), a nationwide collaborative of peer trainers and advocates dedicated to the proposition that families and providers should work as equal partners. TUFF’s newest work, completed with a board of TUFF trainers, is Family Road Map, a systematic five-point approach that keeps families on track when navigating any system. Its next work, Young Adult Road Map, a step-by-step guide for individuals in their teens and twenties will be released in February 2018. In 2017, TUFF created the Family Road Map Institute as a training academy for Family Road Map and Young Adult Road Map Facilitators.