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Defining Family

Silhouettes of a long line of adults and children holding hands in front of a sunset

"A family consists of any combination of two or more people, bound together over time, by ties of mutual consent and/or birth, adoption or placement, and who take responsibility for various activities of daily living, including love."

For most Americans today, family includes a range of loved ones—from children, parents and grandparents to spouses, significant others, siblings and close friends. According to the U.S. Census, nearly 80% of households in the U.S. depart from the “nuclear family” model of a married husband and wife and their children. Many family trends contribute to this fact. For example, approximately 57 million individuals in the U.S. live in multigenerational households... and surveys show that LGBTQ individuals, who are too often forced to leave home and build their own support networks, are more likely to rely on close friends for emotional support, caregiving needs and help in an emergency.

Source: Theconversation.comEmbracing a More Realistic and Inclusive Definition of Family - A Better Balance

Check out these organizations that serve Pennsylvania families!

PA Parent and Family Alliance | Pennsylvania

Logo for the PA Parent and Family Alliance

The PA Parent and Family Alliance is a state-wide organization that started when families of children with social, emotional, behavioral and learning challenges began uniting in their local communities to support one another in their efforts to access services.

They had hopes that all families would be valued and embraced as the experts that they indeed were in knowing and understanding the needs of their loved ones. These hardworking, active, and loving caregivers led the way for what is now the vision of PA Parent and Family Alliance.

The PA Parent and Family Alliance offers a one-of-a-kind, FREE resources for parents whose children are experiencing mental health challenges because we believe that parents are the best advocates for their children, including:

  • Personalized 1-on-1 support to family and parents.
  • Resources for families, including: tips sheets, webinars, assistance finding therapists, IEP and 504 plans, Mental Health and Special Education, family support, and is all-inclusive for a diverse array of family dynamics.
  • Features a blog focusing on topics that matter to families, parents and youth, such as: children’s mental health, classroom dynamics, bullying, supporting your child, self-care, maintaining relationships, and more!
  • Runs events such as support groups for parents and primary caregivers.
  • Offers a newsletter and membership.
Logo for Parent to Parent of Pennsylvania

At Parent to Parent of Pennsylvania, when someone asks what we do, we say we empower and support parents throughout our great state. We connect them with families of children & adults with special needs or disabilities who’ve had similar journeys.

The peaks and valleys families experience along the way might sometimes feel a little overwhelming. So, we’re driven to ensure no parent feels alone. Ever.

How? By providing the emotional support they need to help overcome whatever life throws at them. Share our own experiences and let them know, whatever happens, they’ve got this.

  • “Matches” families to Peer Supporters – families who have been willing to open their hearts, take the time to listen and when asked share their own stories, so those feelings of isolation and in some cases, hopelessness are validated and in its place the feeling that you are not alone and experience hope for the future.
  • Diverse support volunteers for a wide range of ethnic, cultural, language, and social backgrounds.
  • Provides 100% follow-up to make sure family seeking support is happy with their match.
  • Helps to create and administer support programs.

    Disabilities | Hune | United States (

    Logo of HUNE with a bear sitting in a wheelchair holding a pot of honey

    HUNE works to improve educational outcomes for children and youth with all disabilities (emotional, learning, mental, and physical) from 0-26 years of age. ‚Äč HUNE is a not for profit organization that provides free bilingual (English and Spanish) programs, supports, and services on all aspects of special education.

    HUNE’s programs include:

    • special education training and information, support, and limited individual assistance for youth with disabilities and families of exceptional children 0-26 years of age.
    • an after-school and summer program for youth 14-21 years of age.

    The PEAL Center – Helping Families of Children with Disabilities and Special Health Care Needs

    Logo of the PEAL center with a purple bell

    Since 2005, the PEAL Center has been committed to serving families and professionals across Pennsylvania. Today PEAL works with families, youth and young adults with disabilities and special health care needs to help them understand their rights and advocate for themselves. Through our unwavering commitment to inclusion and our guiding values, we empower families and individuals to be included in their home schools and access high quality, coordinated physical and behavioral health care. PEAL’s services are provided at no charge to families as they are funded by private donations and federal, state, and private grants.

    The PEAL Center is an organization of parents/family members of children with disabilities and special health care needs and persons with disabilities who educate and guide:

    • Families of children and youth, ages birth to 26, who have disabilities and/or special health care needs
    • Professionals and others who work with children and youth who have disabilities and/or special health care needs
    • Youth and young adults up to age 26 who have disabilities and/or special health care needs

    The Peal Center provides families with resources for: Special education, COVID-19, PA Community Resources, Early Intervention, Literacy, Inclusion, Education, Families to the MAX (F2MAX), 21 and Able, Transition Discoveries, Health Care Resources, and Youth & young Adults.

    PA Family Network - Vision For Equality

    PA Family Network Family Advisors are located across Pennsylvania and are all people with disabilities or family members. Through our peer-peer workshops, mentoring services, and systems navigation we help families learn what they need to know and do, across the lifespan, to develop the supports and services needed to achieve an Everyday Life for the WHOLE family. At the PA Family Network we define "Family" as the person with an intellectual/developmental disability and/or autism, their family, and those thought of as family.

    The PA Family Network serves three critical roles:

    1. Supporting families’ needs using the “Charting the LifeCourse Tools” to: 
      • Develop a vision for an Everyday Life
      • Assist families in finding the information they need, when they need it. 
      • Discover what it takes to have the full and meaningful lives they envision 
    2. Provide networking opportunities and the ability to connect with other families, which such networking is vital through all of life’s transitions and stages. 
    3. Assist families in navigating the Intellectual Disability and autism systems, while helping to identify and/or develop the supports and services needed to achieve an everyday life.

    PA Families Inc

    PA Families logo with two people sprouting leaves from their arms as trees

    PA Families Inc. (PFI) is a not for profit Statewide Family Network providing support to families raising children and youth with emotional, behavioral, and special needs, as well as serving as an advocate in the different child serving systems.

    Our Statewide Family Network brings experienced families together to offer and receive support around areas of common concern with a special focus on helping families to navigate the child serving systems - mental health, drug and alcohol, children and youth, foster care, juvenile justice, and education. PFI has a strong network of family members, caregivers, and advocates who welcome the opportunity to guide new families and help them develop a plan to ensure their loved one receive the best care available to them through any number of clinical, community, educational, or legal supports.

    Additional Resources for Families:

    Youth MOVE PA

    2551 Walnut Street

    Harrisburg, PA 17103

    Office Phone:  717.221.1022


    Youth Move PA exists in partnership with 
    parent organization, PMHCA. Learn more.

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