Two Hamilton mothers have teamed up to create a new support group for parents of children with special needs.

PEACE—which stands for Parent Empowerment Advocacy for Change in Education—is a parent-run and parent-driven support group that specializes in parent training, support sessions, and advocacy assistance for families of children with special needs.

Kerri Kane and Karen Menser started PEACE to offer parents a support group that focused on parent empowerment and support without involvement from the school district.

The group will hold its first meeting tomorrow, March 22 at the Resurrection Lutheran Church, 4315 Nottingham Way, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

“This meeting will be our first and it was created out of need for the 2,000+ special needs families in and around Hamilton who feel they are unheard and forgotten,” Kane said.

One of Kane’s two sons has spina bifida, and when she first got involved with school related special needs issues she realized there was a lot of information she had to learn.

“I found that the district had a SEPAG—Special Education Parent Advisory Group—but it was really lacking in the collaboration with the district and support for parents,” Kane said. “I began attending any training throughout the state to learn my rights.”

A few years later, Kane became one of the leaders of SEPAG, but she discovered the group wasn’t able to offer the kind of support parents needed.

“We tended to focus on training parents about their rights in special education and our numbers began to dwindle,” she said. “We also saw that parents would not speak or share if district personnel were present out of fear of retaliation.”

After talking with Menser about what parents truly need throughout the district, they decided to start their own group that blends empowerment with support.

“We hope to offer an hour of training for parents on various subjects, from parental rights in special education to local resources available to assist families of kids with special needs,” Kane said.

She said the second hour will focus on support and open discussion. While Kane said this is the most important part of meetings, it’s often missing from other groups. Often, she said, parents would not speak or share if district personnel were at meetings out of fear of retaliation.

“[At PEACE] parents will be off district property and able to speak privately or to the group without any district involvement,” Kane said.

For more information about PEACE, email kkane@tspag.org.