Hope     /hōp/    noun     a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen

When families come to the Center for Family Involvement for guidance, most of them are looking for hope. Something to cling to during a dark time.

Hope is very personal. We reached out to staff members and asked: What does hope mean to you? Where do you find hope? What do you do when you feel hopeless?

We begin this exploration with CFI’s co-founder Dana Yarbrough. She is the Community Support Specialist for the Partnership for People with Disabilities. She also serves as the Assistant Director of Strategic Initiatives. Perhaps most importantly she is a mother to Brooke. Dana’s pregnancy with her only child was cut short at 5 months and thrust her into a sort of alternate parenting universe from what anyone expects or dreams of; giving her a unique perspective which has provided her with the tools to help countless other families.

What does hope mean to you?

For me, hope is not knowing what is coming, but being positive and believing that the best views come after the hardest climbs.

How did hope get you through the early days of discovering your loved one had a disability?

Brooke lived much of the first year of life (and even the 2nd year) in the NICU and PICU at MCV hospital (now VCU Health Systems).  Every baby or child that went home gave me hope that Brooke would, too.  Chumbawamba’s 1997 song, “I Get Knocked Down (but I get up again)”, released when Brooke was 3, speaks to my personality of going with life’s swings and punches. Getting connected to Parent to Parent of Richmond reinforced my attitude of not being able to predict the future so get off the floor when I am knocked down by a diagnosis or by a denial of a service or a closed door and get on the roller coaster of life, knowing that someone will be there to hold my hand along the ride.   

How do you provide hope to the families you serve?

I am not a fan of using phrases such as “everything will be all right” or “my/your child won’t (fill in the blank: walk, live, work, talk, go to college…)” or my least favorite “That is not realistic.”  We do not know what will happen to any of us in the years ahead.  We could live to 105 years of age.  We could die next week. I could meet Johhny Depp and he could fall in love with me.  Same with what life will look like for our child(ren).  Who would have thought when Brooke was 3, that when she turned 16, Virginia would have two college programs for kids like her – LIFE at George Mason and ACE-IT in College at VCU.  I didn’t think that.  Nor did the professionals paid to be in her life.  Who would have thought when Brooke was 10 that she would open a dog boarding business upon graduation (and have 31 four-legged clients)?  I did, but not the professionals (or even her dad).  That hope came from other parents I met along our family’s journey. That is how I share hope – talking about reframing the idea of work, reinforcing the notion of always having high expectations for your child, instilling a ‘Can Do’ attitude in them, focusing on gifts, talents and abilities. And, maybe our journey will inspire hope in other families.  It is why I am so passionate about the 30 year history (I’ve been along for 20 years of it) of the Partnership providing parent to parent support and why I was a part of the small group who started Parent to Parent USA.  Parents who walked in our shoes inspire hope.

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