Parent support specialist uses her own experiences to help others

Scott Criqui News & Notes

When Jennifer Sherman was at her wit’s end, she received the help she desperately needed.

Now, in her role as a parent support specialist at the Bert Nash Center, she helps other parents who are in similar situations.

It wasn’t that long ago, Sherman was one of those parents who was struggling.

Her daughter, who was 13 at the time, was having some major issues. The Shermans — Jennifer and her husband, Andy — knew their daughter needed help. That’s when they came to Bert Nash.

“From the first phone call that I made, somebody cared and listened to my story,” Jennifer said.

While their daughter received therapy services at Bert Nash, and so did their son, who has autism, Jennifer and Andy participated in adult therapy services offered at the Center, including Parent Partners, which is a support group Jennifer now facilitates. The group was exactly what the Shermans needed.

“When you go to parent support and you see other very reasonable, loving, dedicated parents going through the same thing you are, and you’re able to talk about the things that are really happening in your home, that is so validating,” Jennifer said. “The help we got from other parents and from the person facilitating the group made us feel a lot more confident going forward. The group was there to support and calm us and to assist in feeling less isolated. That was worth everything.”

In 2014, Jennifer became a parent support specialist at Bert Nash and started helping parents who were dealing with the kinds of challenges she had gone through.

“I’m not a licensed social worker, I’m not a therapist, I’m a mom,” Jennifer said. “I’m like a doorkeeper. My job is to open the door to the therapist, to those who do the work, to the services that Bert Nash offers.”

As a parent support specialist, Jennifer shares her experiences and her story.

“I was in the therapist’s room when they pulled up my daughter’s sleeve and there was a series of deep cuts. I didn’t even know about cutting until I saw it on my daughter’s arm,” Jennifer said. “But I was given hope, and now I can offer that hope.

In March 2018, Jennifer took a leave from her position to deal with another challenge — stage 4 breast cancer. She underwent surgery and chemo and radiation treatments. She returned to work part time in June 2018.

She’s grateful for her health, grateful her family is doing well, and grateful to be in a position to help others. Besides being a parent support specialist, she also teaches parenting classes out in the community.

“The kids are doing great. They and my husband took care of me when I was sick and cheered me up when I didn’t think I could be happy,” Jennifer said. “It’s helpful to be back at work. I love helping people. To hear another parent say, I’ve been there, that gives people hope. Hope is an important thing for people to have. If people don’t have hope, why would they bother.”