Mothering Hands Cooperative (MHC) is a community-based caregiver cooperative based in Washington, DC aimed to have national and international impact in the lives of families raising children with disabilities. The central function of MHC is in building the capacity of family advocacy by promoting a culture of emotionally intelligent support and services in the home, school, healthcare system and community at large. Our products and services include the following: care packages, community-based programming and home care.

MHC promotes inclusion and prosperity for all regardless of family structure, socioeconomic class, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity and ability.  With a central focus on families with children and youth from birth to 22 years old, MHC also takes an intergenerational approach to engagement offering opportunities for vulnerable adults to also participate and benefit from dynamic programming, leadership development opportunities and civic engagement through working collaboratively and in partnership with the network of organizations already providing services to families raising children with disabilities and helping augment their family-centered services through our consultancy pool and training programs.

Family-centeredness is an evidence-based approach to service delivery that is supported through person-first practices developed within disability studies programs. MHC honors these traditions in creating opportunities for families to experience this value system and join in advocacy efforts to ensure access to supports and services for their loved ones from early childhood through the transition to self-determined, high quality adult lives. Central to achieving these goals are the emotional health of the families caring for their children with disabilities and creating sustainable, inclusive community opportunities to dissuade against isolation, especially when initially faced with a new medical diagnosis or educational evaluation.

Our goal is to ensure that families feel optimally supported through receiving their first encounter with their child’s disability and surround them with a care system that not only increases their knowledge of the condition but helps create a positive vision of the future of their loved one. MHC does this in offering programs that promote personal growth and development for the primary caretaker through self-care events and programming, while working with healthcare providers to support these efforts with high quality respite services for the children.

Our cooperative model promotes inclusion and puts families at the center of a working democratic system. To this end, MHC endorses systemic and strategic engagement, offering its membership opportunities to engage in the advocacy efforts on the local, state, national and international arenas via promoting restorative justice practices, social emotional learning, school behavioral health services and the medical home model of health care delivery. We do this work in partnership with established organizations engaged in legal advocacy and community organizing, offering our families ways to increase their knowledge through this network.

There are three key programmatic areas of MHC include:

(1) Care packages are individually crafted through working with managed care organizations, direct service providers, child development centers and school communities to reflect the needs of families with their initial encounter with their child’s disability. There are a wide variety of diagnosable condition that can shift the trajectory of a family’s perception of a normal life for their loved one. The care packages are aimed at dissuading against the isolation known to come along with a new diagnosis.  Due to the uniqueness of how this impacts a family’s life, our care packages are created after a trauma-informed intake process with the primary caretaker. Our care packages can be a one-time service offering or, at the family’s request, we provide continued peer counselling with a membership family of MHC.

(2) Inclusive and creative community programming is designed to create fun and social opportunities for the children and youth with disabilities to engage with their nondisabled peers. With a highly trained team of educators and therapists, MHC provides an inclusive aftercare African dance program for children that can be crafted for any age group, depending on the need of the early childhood development center or school community. Additionally, MHC offers social programming geared at the primary caregiver, offering retreats and other self-care opportunities, while also providing social opportunities for the children and youth by supporting the provider network in offering high quality respite care.

(3) Home care is central to positive family life. MHC is committed to family-centered care and works with families to create the culture of care needed in the home for their loved one with complex medical needs. In providing individualized care to support children in learning independence in activities of daily living, MHC promotes routines-based interventions in the home and community, offering support with highly trained service providers that are part of our membership base.