A nonprofit group that offers support services to parents raising children with mental health, behavioral and emotional concerns is opening its first satellite location in Harrison.
Allegheny Family Network , formed in 2004 and opened in Oakland in 2007, will be hosting an open house on Friday afternoon at its new location, AFN-North, at 1600 Pacific Ave.
Those attending will be able to learn about its programs, adult education classes, support groups and upcoming events. Organizations from Highlands Partnership, a group of local service providers, will attend the open house to offer information on the programs they provide.
Allegheny Family Network serves about 550 families per month.
“AFN-North will be a one-stop site for adult education programs, parent training classes, support groups and a meeting site for appointments with family support partners from AFN,” said Misty Chybrzynski, community development supervisor with Allegheny Family Network. “The site will also be a hub for community organizations, service providers, government agencies and neighborhood champions to connect with parents, caregivers and their families.”
A family-run organization, AFN’s staff and board of directors are parents who have already navigated the child-serving systems, medical processes and educational plans for their own children.
Its CEO since 2008, Ruth Fox of Cheswick, raised her kids and is now a grandparent raising children with mental health and behavioral issues.
Fox said they decided to open a location in Natrona Heights, Harrison, because they started getting a lot of referrals from the area and serving many families there. Rented spaces in churches and libraries started becoming unavailable.
“We called the county and talked to them about it. They were willing to fund a satellite office in Natrona Heights,” she said, referring to the county’s Department of Human Services.
“There’s no buses for people to come to Pittsburgh for all the things we offer families in Pittsburgh,” she said. “Now that we have the site, we’re able to bring those trainings to them.”
Allegheny Family Network works with several churches in the community, which provide services and programs for families such as clothing closets, food banks and tax preparation services.
To help parents get their high school diplomas after dropping out, the location will provide childcare, teacher instruction and tutoring, materials, the cost of the test, and transportation, and going on to include career placement or training school enrollment.
In light of the opioid crisis, AFN-North connects parents with Generations House of Worship, which hosts a restoration and recovery group and a Nar-Anon group. It also teaches family members how to use Narcan and provides it to those who receive training.
It works with parents of special needs children in the Highlands School District and the district’s special education department to form a plan for the child so that parents and administrators understand the process and their rights and responsibilities.
“We not only support the parents, we also support the school district. We help parents put things in place for their children in a better way,” Fox said. “Sometimes parents go into schools angry. We help them with that. Most schools want to see children educated. We work with the school as well. We don’t see the school as the enemy. We want to partner with the school to help the children.”
AFN-North is working on launching an afternoon shuttle in October. For a small fee, the shuttle will be for families to travel from Tarentum to Natrona Heights for appointments, errands, adult education classes and support center programming.
“Our hope is that this transportation will help people get to AFN-North, but will also help parents get to the grocery store, to the food bank and to some of the things other organizations and agencies do to help families,” Fox said.
Brian Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BCRittmeyer.