Welcome to Chicago North Shore Moms Local Nonprofit Spotlight, where we highlight and introduce a local nonprofit’s inception and mission! Today we are featuring C.I.T.Y. of Support, whose unique mission is: “To create a dynamic community, both online and in person, that supports all families navigating the needs of their child in therapy.” This mission really spoke to us as moms because when you have a child who has been labeled as “different” in one way or another, sometimes it’s the parents who need as much support and love as the children going through therapies, regardless of diagnosis. CNSMoms spoke with pediatric speech-language pathologist, and Founder and Board Chair, Beth Deiter about the fruition of this important cause and who it serves.
Hi Beth! We are so pleased to help spread the word about C.I.T.Y. of Support! But first, please introduce yourself.
Hi! My name is Beth Deiter. I grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, and I currently live in Arlington Heights with my husband and 2 children (10, 8). I have been a pediatric speech-language pathologist for almost 17 years, working in hospital, school, and home settings, and for the past 3 years, I have served as the Board Chair for the nonprofit organization, C.I.T.Y. of Support.
What does C.I.T.Y. of Support stand for? When was it established?
C.I.T.Y. of Support stands for “Children In Therapy and You.” We started as an informal Facebook Group about 5 years ago, but we officially incorporated as a nonprofit organization 3 years ago in order to reach more families and have a greater impact in the community.
What is C.I.T.Y of Support’s mission?
Our mission is to create a dynamic community, both in person and online, that supports all families navigating the needs of their child in therapy, regardless of diagnosis. Our core beliefs emphasize connection, collaboration, and celebration.
C.I.T.Y. of Support welcomes everyone, whether they are parents, professionals, or caring community members. We focus on personal connections, and while we have members from all across Chicagoland, our Local Leaders help to coordinate events/opportunities within specific geographic regions. Information about how to connect with the Local Leader in your neighborhood can be found on our website.
Why did you start C.I.T.Y of Support?
I have been a pediatric speech-language pathologist for almost 17 years throughout time I’ve seen that families feel isolated or disconnected from traditional support systems when they have a child who requires therapy services. Friends, other parents, and even family members, don’t always have the insight to know how to interact with/respond to the needs of these children and their families. Especially when young children are referred for therapy, these services are frequently provided in the family’s home through the state’s Early Intervention system. Although in-home services are convenient, they can also contribute to feelings of loneliness, as they do not provide an opportunity for these families to interact/connect with other families in similar situations.
Participation in general, community-based programs (library, park district classes) are also more difficult for these families, as they can report feeling uncomfortable/misunderstood as a result of their child’s different medical or behavioral concerns. While some children in therapy may receive a diagnosis in which there are specific support groups available, there are many children who have less common or unknown diagnoses with no access to such a group.
C.I.T.Y. of Support fills this gap. We are an accessible and inclusive place for everyone, regardless of a child’s diagnosis, age, therapeutic needs, or overall situation. All of our information, resources, and events are free-of-charge for parents, supported through online formats, and available at any time of day eliminating the need for any fees, transportation, or babysitting. Our vision is for all families who have children in therapy to have access to a supportive community that empowers them with resources and celebrates their journey.
As the organization’s founder, I’ve been involved from the beginning. I immediately sought the help of other committed board members who would bring fresh, personal, and meaningful perspectives when creating the organization’s foundation and goals for the future. We currently have therapists, parents, pediatricians, educators, librarians, and clinic owners serving as board members, all of whom are highly invested in the success of our organization.
How do people reach out for support and what does it look like when they are getting support?
We encourage families looking for support to join our bustling Facebook Group. (That’s where it all started, and truly, it’s the most interactive forum for our families, although we do also have more traditional Facebook, Instagram (@cityofsupport), Twitter, and Pinterest accounts.) In our closed Facebook Group (just request to join), anyone can ask questions, look for a referral, recruit advice, vent/commiserate when frustrated, and cheer each other on when there’s a celebratory moment. Crowd-sourcing with our members is unique in that they are either parents, therapists, or other professionals/community members who acknowledge and understand the unique journey of raising a child who receives therapy services.
In addition to the interactive Facebook Group, we encourage families to visit our website (www.cityofsupport.org) to sign up for our monthly newsletter. In it, they will receive information about our upcoming events/programs without relying on the sometimes-inconsistent social media notifications. We attempt to create events that can be in-person or online, per our mission. Some examples include social meetings (now primarily virtual happy hours), organized playdates at local libraries & therapy clinics (when in-person), education roundtables with relevant speakers, resource fairs, and our special “graduation celebration” (a virtual event last year). Our website also contains our Professional Directory and Collective Blog Posts where parents can search for meaningful topics and find contributions from many different parents and professionals, making resources easily accessible.
How does the general population learn about this resource?
People are finding out about our group primarily through word-of-mouth referrals, suggestions from their therapists/pediatricians, and our outreach initiatives. For example, we have a pilot program at 5 local hospitals where any family being discharged from the NICU will receive a gift from us and our contact information. We hope to connect with these more vulnerable families to provide support right at the start of their journey with this “Welcome to our C.I.T.Y.” project.
What’s next for C.I.T.Y. of Support? How do you see it growing?
C.I.T.Y. of Support has close to 3,500 members across our social media platforms and close to 1200 members on our monthly email list. We are currently redesigning our website to be even more user-friendly for our community. By providing a robust directory of resources, creating collaborative blog posts, and sharing information about our community events/initiatives through our site, we hope to be the premier source of information for families in Chicagoland.
Our partnership with local hospitals and libraries has also led to some exciting endeavors. Our pilot program “Welcome to our C.I.T.Y.” has been introduced at 5 area hospitals. This program identifies parents whose children are being immediately referred for therapy services and connects them with our community by providing these families with our contact information and a small bag of welcome gifts on behalf of our organization. Our partnership with area libraries has also led to the provision of grants to assist them in acquiring special collections of therapeutic books, materials, tools, and equipment, increasing access to meaningful resources in the community at no cost to families. We hope to continue and expand these partnerships in the coming year, especially as in-person interactions increase.
Who would you like to thank for the success of C.I.T.Y of Support?
Although many of our resources/events are online, we also encourage in-person connections when possible. Unfortunately, this past year many of these opportunities were not available due to safety restrictions; however, one of our biggest supporters have been local libraries. Libraries mirror many of our values such as inclusion, acceptance, accessibility, and community relationships. In the past few years, local libraries have hosted regular playgroups for our families, coffee groups for our parents, and education/outreach efforts. We are thankful for their enthusiastic support, and we look forward to our continued collaboration.
How do our readers contribute or volunteer their time?
We would love for your readers to help spread the word about our organization! If there is a pediatrician’s office, therapy clinic, or parent group that is not yet represented in our group/website, we would love to include their information and resources, as applicable. The more connections we make, the more we will be able to support these families.
Plus if you or someone you know is looking for information/advice about navigating the sometimes-confusing world of pediatric therapy, please refer them to our organization. Every day parents post questions, ask for advice, and seek referrals on social media platforms related to their children who may need and/or already receive therapy services. We would love if you could direct these parents to our organization knowing that they will be able to connect with a large, local, and knowledgeable group designed exactly to meet their needs.
And, parents can join our private Facebook group for support and to ask questions about how to get more support.