As long as there have been children with disabilities, parents have been supporting each other in many informal ways, sharing experiences and information. The first formalized program for providing parent support began in Omaha, Nebraska in the mid-1970’s and became known as the Pilot Parents Program.
In 1979 Pilot Parents was established in Arizona by a small group of interested parents and professionals. The Board of Directors is composed of parents and professionals from around Tucson.
Parents whose children have a wide variety of disabilities have completed training and formed a network of active volunteers. This network, which has grown from a small number of volunteers to several hundred statewide over the last 36 years, is the backbone of the support system provided for families.
Initially, services were available only in Maricopa and Pima counties, but have expanded to include a number of smaller communities throughout Southern Arizona.
Funding for parent-to-parent support has been provided by the Arizona Department of Economic Security, Division of Developmental Disabilities since the program’s beginning and is still the primary funding source of Pilot Parents of Southern Arizona. In 1991 Pilot Parents received monies from the federal government out of the Department of Education Office of Special Education Rehabilitation Services through a sub-contract with Raising Special Kids to fund a part-time Education Coordinator here in Tucson. This followed with additional positions added to meet expanded needs. As other money sources were identified, we added to our staff a Native American Outreach Coordinator and a staff position to facilitate our First Jobs Project. We have extended our Sibling Support program throughout Southern Arizona with the addition of a contract with DDD, District VI and have been contracting in these areas with local staff to carry out the SibShop program. In 1997 Pilot Parents received funding from DDD and other sources to coordinate the statewide Partners in Policymaking Project.
Pilot Parents of Southern Arizona was successful in a request for funding to be the second Parent Training and Information Center in the State of Arizona through the Federal Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehab Services and in the Fall of 1998 began implementation of the S.A.P.P.H.l.R.E. Project which provided information and referral services to fund an office in Nogales, AZ for families in Southern Arizona.
In 1999 Pilot Parents, in conjunction with Arizona Early Intervention Programs, began a “Welcome Parent” Program providing individual support and informational materials from a number of community resources to new parents. Other programs provided beginning in 1999 were a “New Parent Support Group” for parents of families with infants staying long term in Neonatal Intensive Care Units and a “Special Needs Adoption Program” in conjunction with the Arizona’s Children Association.
In 2000, Pilot Parents helped form a Grandparents Support group for grandparents of children with special needs. Also, a Spanish-speaking parent support group for families with children with Down syndrome was formed with this group publishing a book about their personal experiences.
Pilot Parents became involved with the Enhancing Arizona’s Parent Networks group, which is a statewide group that provides trainings for families on a number of subjects relating to special education.
In 2001, Pilot Parents received funding from The Arizona Coalition for Family Support and Self-Determination grant in collaboration with RAISING Special Kids, U of A, Arizona Center for Disability Law and People First of Arizona. Pilot Parents also received funding from the AZ Department of Health Services for a Parent Resource Specialist to be located at the Children’s Clinics for Rehabilitative Services to enhance services for families utilizing the clinic.
In the year 2002, Pilot Parents became a contractor for the Arizona Department of Education to implement the State Improvement Grant. The purpose was to improve the education system by implementing a number of objectives and activities to help increase the number of special education teachers needed to meet the needs of students in Arizona, and also to ensure that students in charter schools have access to fully certified special education teachers and to increase/gain reading skills through the use of various validated research strategies.
In August of 2005 the Children’s Clinics for Rehabilitative Services where Pilot Parents is housed approached us and contracted for an Education Coordinator to be present at some of the CCRS clinics to offer education support and other Pilot Parent resources to families who are receiving multidisciplinary services through the Children’s Clinics.
In October of 2005, Pilot Parents of Southern Arizona became a partner in the existing Arizona Parent Training and Information Center network charged with providing education support, trainings and workshops throughout the nine counties of Southern Arizona.
In September of 2011 Pilot Parents was awarded a contract from the Arizona Developmental Disability Planning Council for a self-advocacy development project known as LEAP (Leadership Education Advocacy Partnership). This program provides reimbursement of registration fees and accommodations for individuals to attend trainings , conferences and workshops.