Family Support Services (FSS)

The Family Support Services Program is focused on the needs of families who have a child or children with a social, emotional, behavioral, developmental or a mental health disability. FSS provides services to support and empower families so they can improve the quality of their lives and help their children to achieve their full potential within the family network and community. FSS provides a wide range of no cost services to help support the entire family.

Family Peer Support Services
A Family Peer Advocate works across a variety of systems to provide peer support, education, advocacy and information and referral. A Family Peer Advocate will work closely with parents/guardians in a strength-based relationship to enhance family skills to promote positive youth functioning and their child’s ability to be successful. A Family Peer Advocate will be available to collaboratively work with and on behalf of families to assist them to obtain needed services and supports to promote positive outcomes. The most important advocacy concept of FSS is that of being “Effective Parent-Professional-System partnerships”.

FSS provides wavier contracts services through the Office of Mental Health providing skill-building and respite services.

Parents of Unique Children (POUCH)
POUCH is a parent–driven support group consisting of parents/guardians and a FSS peer advocate who share similar experiences. POUCH provides a forum where parents can exchange information, share past experiences and create positive techniques and skills to enhance their family unity. FSS schedules a variety of educational workshops which have included such topics as: Mental health assessments, transition services, special education laws, nutrition and a medication presentation by an area pharmacist.

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Parent Empowerment Training (PEP)
The Family Peer Advocate provides training for parents/guardians of children with mental health needs so they can gain specific information about mental health disorders and their treatments, the mental health care system and services and school system options.

Respite Services include:

  • Family Support Services Respite: FSS offers group skill building and recreational respite interventions. FSS employees trained adult respite providers who offer skill building and mentoring while supervising and encouraging appropriate behaviors’ as well as life skills in a public or home environment.
  • Saturday Group Respite: FSS provides 4 hours of group respite at the YMCA on scheduled Saturdays throughout the year. This is also supervised by the trained respite providers, with a one to three ratio. Staff focuses on socialization and skill building activities. Group recreational events occur after the planned agenda is completed.
  • KIDS FIRST: The FSS summer program offers children and youth group socialization, skill-building and community involvement. This is full time therapeutic recreation day program which does have a cost to the participants. The fee must be paid in full before a child can be put on the roster for participation. More information on KIDS FIRST will be in the annual Ithaca’s Summer Camp Review put out each April – May.
    Click here for the 2016 KIDS FIRST Application Packet

For more information on Family Support Services, please email Pat Vincent at