Damar Services recognizes that even as caring, compassionate and professional as its staff members are, no one truly understands what it’s like to parent a child with behavioral and developmental disabilities except someone who has lived that life.
Parent Voices was created as a place for parents to meet other parents for the purpose of supporting and encouraging one another. The Parent Voices program sponsors casual times of gathering as well as workshops that provide information helpful to parents raising children with intellectual or behavioral disabilities.
Guiding the program is Donna Hammock, one of Damar’s Parent Advocates and the parent of a child supported by Damar. As someone who understands both the reward and the struggle of having a child who has been placed in a residential facility, Donna serves a dual role – making sure Damar never forgets the parent experience and providing opportunities for parents to connect and interact with each other. This allows her to help parents navigate the care experience and find ways to be more involved with the children who are served at Damar.
If, at any time, you want to talk to a parent who has also walked this road, or for more information about Parent Voices, click here and provide your contact information. Donna will get back to you as quickly as possible.
Fifteen years ago, when my son called to tell me my grandson, Kevin, had been born, I was ecstatic. But, during the drive to the hospital I kept reflecting on my son’s tone of voice on the telephone. I hadn’t heard the excitement of a first-time dad. Was something wrong? Had the baby been born sick? Or could the baby have been born like me – a dwarf?
When I got the hospital, my fears seem confirmed when I saw my son, Larry. He had no trace of joy on his face. I grabbed his hand and whispered, “Is he like me?” As we walked to the maternity ward, I asked again. “Is he like me?” Larry gently replied, “No, Mom. He has Down syndrome.”
You could have knocked me over with a feather. I knew nothing about Down syndrome.
My, how things have changed. In the years since I first fell in love with Kevin’s cerulean-blue eyes in that hospital, my son passed away and I became guardian to this beautiful child with multiple diagnoses. For years, I lived with him in my home. As Kevin got older, his behaviors became harder and harder for me to manage. Finally, in June of 2016, we brought Kevin to Damar.
Like many parents, I say that deciding to bring Kevin to Damar was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. I was scared and angry, and I wondered if I was doing the right thing. Now, after seeing the miraculous things Damar has done for Kevin, I know I did the right thing. Not every day has been a great day for Kevin since he came to Damar, and we’ve had our challenges and frustrations. But Damar has made a huge difference in our lives. Kevin is happier, and I no longer feel like I have to go through the challenges of raising Kevin alone.
My story doesn’t mean I’m going to think Damar is right for every child with an intellectual or behavioral disability. But it does mean that I can relate to those caregivers who are struggling with the challenges associated with raising a child with intellectual or behavioral disabilities. And it certainly means that I’ll be there to listen, to help you find information and to connect you to other parents who are in a similar situation.
In other words, it means I’m here to assure you that you don’t have to go through these challenges alone.