Today we’d like to introduce you to Beth Deiter.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Beth. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I am a pediatric speech-language-feeding therapist who has spent most of her career working with children in a hospital setting. When I had children of my own, I decided to create a more flexible work schedule by starting my own private practice and seeing patients within their own homes. Whether the family was using the state’s birth-to-three Early Intervention program or their own insurance to finance our therapy visits, they seemed to all have similar concerns. While it was especially convenient for therapists to come to work with their child within their natural, functional environment, parents would frequently talk to me about feeling isolated.
Parents, especially first-time parents, who had a child referred for therapy services, (physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, etc), didn’t know what to expect or who to ask for guidance and advice. Their friends didn’t always relate to the challenges that they were experiencing, and just leaving the house for social outings or typical errands could be difficult.
I realized that the patients I was working with who had a more familiar diagnosis like Down Syndrome or Autism, would often be connected with a community that provided resources and support. If, however, a child did not have a diagnosis or had a less-familiar diagnosis, these families were often left without this important community.
Because of this clear area of need, I volunteered to create a simple Facebook Group to try and connect these different families and build a local community of support. Three years later, our group has grown to almost 2,000 members of families all over the Chicagoland area. Parents ask questions, provide advice, share in successes, and commiserate with their challenges all within a safe, and understanding community.
In order to reach even more families and have an even greater impact, in May 2018 we formally incorporated as a non-profit 501(c) 3 organization called C.I.T.Y. of Support: Children In Therapy and You. Our mission is to create a dynamic community both online and in person, that supports all families navigating the needs of their child in therapy. We believe that all families who have children in therapy can benefit from access to a supportive community that empowers them with resources and celebrates their journey, regardless of diagnosis.
And, our reach continues to grow. Through fundraising and the commitment of volunteers, we have regional contacts throughout Chicago hosting playgroups for children, monthly parent coffee groups, social events, and an educational series. We continue to have our Facebook Group, but as a formal organization, we now have the potential to become a known resource and source of support for all families who have a child receiving therapy services.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Everything about C.I.T.Y. of Support has evolved very organically. As I said, I’m a speech-language-therapist, and community organizing was all new to me. Being the administrator of a large group of people and managing social media have all been learning experiences. I constantly try to be a neutral and consistent voice in the group and listen to the requests of our members to create opportunities/resources as needed.
While Facebook has been the platform in which this group was formed, and I’m so grateful it has brought together this many people in our area, it is sometimes a challenge knowing if all our members are receiving information in their specific Facebook newsfeed. Based on everyone’s individual notification preferences, their tendency to check their Facebook accounts, mysterious Facebook algorithms, and some families who wish to join our group, but not aren’t on Facebook has been somewhat of a struggle until recently.
Now that we are a non-profit 501(c) 3 organization and can support our own website, we are now sending out a newsletter 1-2 times each moth directly to those who sign up to be a (free) member of our C.I.T.Y. by entering their email address on our website’s homepage: www.cityofsupport.org. This has been one way we are hoping to grow the engagement of our audience without relying on one social media outlet.
C.I.T.Y. of Support: Children In Therapy and You – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Our organization was created completely based on community need, and it has transformed the way parents can access resources regarding their child receiving therapy services. Our dynamic online community and our many opportunities for in-person connections help to provide camaraderie, support, and normalization of each family’s circumstance.
Parents may feel as if they are the only ones navigating the needs of their child receiving therapy until they join this community. Then they see that they are not alone. They can ask questions, and someone in the group is likely to have the answer. They can ask for recommendations, and they can quickly be provided with options within their neighborhood. They can vent about their feelings of confusion, stress, or despair, and they will be greeted with supportive, understanding, and encouraging words of wisdom from others in similar situations. And, they can brag about their child’s successes (whether it be standing for the first time, blowing their first kiss, eating a new kind of food, using a new sign language sign, or tolerating messy play), and the entire community will rally to cheer them on.
We have created a true C.I.T.Y. of Support, and I am beyond proud of the positive impact it is having in these families’ lives. My hope is when a family is referred for a therapy evaluation, that the person making the referral, whether it be a pediatrician, teacher, or specialist, will also tell the family about our organization. This will then immediately connect the family to our community and provide them with support from the beginning of their journey.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I define success as continued growth, and to that end, this organization has been remarkably successful. We have grown from a small group of local residents to nearly 2,000 members in just 3 years. Our growth has been completely due to word-of-mouth, which is a testament to the respect we have gained within the community. Parents are recommending that other parents join our group; therapists are suggesting that their patients join the group, and as pediatricians learn of our services, they are beginning to recommend our group to their patients as well.
We have also continued to grow in the kinds of programming we are offering. We started by providing a playgroup for families and their children 1x/month at a local library, and while that group is still active, we now offer occasional Saturday playgroups (especially helpful for parents who work), coordinated playgroups throughout our different regions of Chicago, social outings in the community, monthly parent coffee groups in 5 different regions of Chicago, and an educational series addressing relevant topics from a variety of perspectives.
My hope is to have continued growth in the future. Now that we are a fully-operating non-profit 501(c)3 organization with a board of directors, committees, volunteers, and an active, engaged community, we are positioned for and anticipating ongoing success.
- Address: 800 E. Northwest Highway
Mount Prospect, IL 60056
- Website: www.cityofsupport.org
- Phone: (224) 409-7150
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cityofsupport/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/cityofsupport
- Other: https://www.facebook.com/groups/cityofsupport/