Barb Dittrich is a passionate advocate for the needs of families impacted by disabilities in the church. She’s faithfully served as a member of the Program Committee responsible for putting together Inclusion Fusion, and will be serving as moderator for nightly Tweetchats during this year’s Special Needs Ministry Web Summit.
The mother of three children, two of whom have a variety of special needs, Barb founded SNAPPIN’ MINISTRIES (Special Needs Parents Network) in 2002 and currently serves as its Executive Director. The organization she leads was one of three finalists for WORLD MAGAZINE’S Hope Award for Effective Compassion in October of 2009, in conjunction with the American Bible Society. With a unique vision for serving parents of children with special needs, she has led the SNAPPIN’ MINISTRIES team in developing an innovative parent mentor curriculum. She blogs at Comfort in the Midst of Chaos.
We’re pleased that Barb will again be presenting for this year’s Inclusion Fusion. Her topic will be Making the Case for Mentoring. Here’s a description of Barb’s talk…
Mentoring is an effective biblical model used by mature men and women to disciple younger ones. Parents can use the mentoring model to support and be supported as they face the special challenges of raising a child with special needs. This workshop will describe the components required to create a strong special needs mentoring program and healthy mentoring relationships. It will also provide an overview of SNAPPIN’ Ministries’ new mentor training curriculum, mentoring program, and ongoing support system for mentors and mentorees. This workshop can benefit parents who want to take part in SNAPPIN‘ Ministries‘ program and to churches and organizations interested in launching their own mentoring initiative.
Barb took some time last week to answer a few questions about SNAPPIN’s mentoring initiative…
SG: What prompted SNAPPIN’ Ministries to devote so much time and resources to develop a training curriculum for training mentors to serve families of kids with special needs?
BD: Our core competency as an organization is with the parents of children with unique abilities. This project just naturally flowed out of our mission statement. Our Board of Directors set things in motion at our annual vision casting meeting a couple of years ago.
SG: How are the mentors trained by SNAPPIN’ different from parent mentors who advocate for the needs of children in special education or the mental health system?
BD: I would like to believe that our training is more thorough than most. It is also has a distinctly faith-based approach. Our vision is that mentors would not only help mentorees with practical and advocacy issues, but also that they would experience spiritual growth together.
SG: What type of time commitment is required of individuals interested in serving as a parent mentor for a family of a child with special needs?
BD: The training period requires a minimum of 2 hours per week of online video chat training plus reading in between for a period of 3 months. Mentors are finding this appealing because they know we are sending them out well-equipped. After the 3 months of training, we ask them to commit to a minimum of another 3 months to meet with their mentorees 2 hours per week.
SG: Is the mentor training available through SNAPPIN’ Ministries available everywhere? Can churches serving kids with special needs and their families across the U.S. and beyond replicate SNAPPIN’s training model?
BD: We know that a parent living in as remote area needs support with probably fewer resources than those living near urban areas. We designed the web components, so this program can be participated in by anyone anywhere. In an effort to assure the quality of the program, we are not offering training independent of our direct enrollment. However, we will come and inform churches or other organizations of the program, so they can learn more and see if this is something they want to refer parents to.
SG: What impact have mentors had on you and your husband as you’ve have raised two children with very different challenges associated with their disabilities?
BD: I have been VERY blessed to be mentored by excellent mothers in both the faith community and the special needs community, but never both combined as we are offering in this program. Nevertheless, those mentors were absolute lifelines to me. They were critical in my darkest hours. I have also been blessed to serve as a spiritual mentor to a mom with a son who has special needs. (No coincidence in my opinion.). The mutual edification and significance from that relationship was remarkable.
My husband has experienced mentoring in a much different way. For years he has met 2 other special needs dads for breakfast and Bible study every-other Thursday before work.
SG: Anything you’d like that I left out?
BD: Our testimonies are personal narratives of hope. My prayer is that this program would help pass on that hope to many, many parents.
Here’s Barb’s Inclusion Fusion talk from last year…Bathing in the Healing of Forgiveness.
Join Barb and 35 other leaders serving as faculty for Inclusion Fusion, Key Ministry’s second annual Special Needs Ministry Web Summit is made available FREE OF CHARGE to pastors, church staff, volunteers and families everywhere from November 12th-16th, 2012. For an up to date list of speakers, topics, links to speaker blogs and a link for free registration, click here.