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Family Partner Making a Huge Impact
Supporting Families of Transition Age Youth Clients

Article Jason Kimbrough, Supervising Mental Health Clinician

Meet Sonia Vasquez

Sonia is the Family Partner for the BHRS Youth to Adult Transition program at the Shasta Youth and Young Adult Clinic in Redwood City. After 14 years with the Human Services Agency, she joined the team as a family partner in 2017.  She is bilingual (Spanish/English) and bicultural.

Sonia’s role is to provide peer support from the perspective of a parent, significant caregiver or support person.  She fully engages the parents, caregivers, and support persons of our Transitional Age Youth (TAY) clients, assisting them to be effective advocates for their loved ones.

Hired specifically for her lived experience, Sonia is an amazing and committed mother of two young adults – one of whom has challenges related to a psychotic illness. When you meet Sonia, you immediately experience the positive energy and fortitude that have carried her through the challenges of caring for her son.  It’s the same energy and focus she brings to her work on a daily basis.

Sonia’s dedication translates into clear and immediate progress and stability for our TAY clients, families, and caregivers.

The results can be seen in hospitalization rates, medication compliance, the understanding and effectiveness of family psychoeducation, improved overall health for the clients and families/caregivers, follow through with treatment, effective outreach in the community, and more.

Sonia’s skill set allows her to support some of the most vulnerable families in this county. Many of the families and caregivers are monolingual Spanish, working several jobs to support their families, and are often worried about their immigration status. These families are also trying to understand and support their young adult children who are in the frightening states of first break psychosis (FEP), and/or struggling with other serious mental health challenges. 

Lived Experience Helps Families Heal

She supports parents, grandparents, caregivers, host families, and/or former foster parents and provides psychoeducation grounded in her own lived experience. By openly sharing her experiences supporting her own son, Sonia reassures the family members/support persons of our TAY clients that they will not be judged. She also teaches them how to navigate the system of care to secure vital resources and supports.

Sonia travels the span of the county to meet family members/support persons in their homes, at work, and/or in the community.  Daily, she can be overheard on her office or cell phone actively providing support and encouragement to family members/support persons. 

Some of the support BHRS Family Partners focus on providing include: understanding their perspective and vision for the future, actively listen to help identify strengths; collaborating with provider to develop plans that honor their/clients’ perspectives; accompanying them to provider meetings to explain their perspective, culture, and beliefs in a way that increases understanding by all; connecting them to community resources; and preparing them for crisis situations.

The healing power of lived experience is alive and thriving in the BHRS Youth to Adult Transition Program, thanks to staff like Sonia, a true agent of change in her community.