On this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast, host David Hirsch talks with Dr. Stephen Grcevich, a child & adolescent psychiatrist and founder of Key Ministry, promoting meaningful connection between churches and families of kids with special needs.
To find out Key Ministries go to: https://www.keyministry.org
To find out about Dr, Grcevich’s book, Mental Health & The Church: A Ministry Handbook for Including Children and Adults with ADHD, Anxiety, Mood Disorders, and Other Common Mental Health Conditions, go to https://www.amazon.com/Mental-Health-Church-Including-Conditions/dp/031053481X
Follow Stephen Grcevich on Facebook or Twitter: search Key Ministy.
Dad to Dad 104 – Dr. Stephen Grcevich, A Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist & Founder Of Key Ministry
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: One of the things that I think is critically important. Like if you’re a dad dealing with this, it’s important that you seek out and find other dads who have had similar experiences because, you know, guys being guys, we don’t like to talk about our junk to other people, but having other folks who have been. Through this journey, you know, having other guys who can Linden here, who can give very practical advice, you know, and to proactively learn from other men’s experiences would be something that I would see as being critically important.
Tom Couch: That’s Dr. Steven, a clinical psychiatrist and founder of key ministry promoting meaningful connection between churches and families of kids with special needs.
And Steve’s our guest on this Special Fathers Network, dad to dad podcast. Here’s our host David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: Hi, and thanks for listening to the dad to dad podcast, fathers, mentoring, fathers of children with special needs presented by the Special Fathers Network.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process.
New fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support dads, to find out more, go to 21stcenturydads.com.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com, groups and search dad to dad.
Tom Couch: So let’s listen now to this fascinating conversation between Stephen and David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with Stephen, a doctor in Chagrin Falls, Ohio who is a father of two young adult daughters, a clinical adolescent psychiatrist, and founder of key ministry. Not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping churches become more welcoming and inclusive of families raising children with disability. Steve, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the Special Fathers Network.
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: Well, David, thanks for having me. I’m
David Hirsch: honored. You and your wife, Denise had been married for 31 years and other proud parents of Leah 24 and Mira 21.
Let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: Okay. So I grew up in Boardman, Ohio, outside of young stone about halfway between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Um, I guess, you know, pretty typical upbringing. Um, my father was an educator and he got involved with broadcasting and so that he was, um, in his younger days, he was a rock and roll DJ on the radio, ended up starting, um, The public radio and public television stations in the community where we lived and became a born again, Christian, when I was a freshman in high school and that his faith for the last 20 years of his life was really the center of his life.
And a big influence. The, I guess the one sort of unique thing about my. Sort of growing up years is that I managed to get accepted into medical school when I was 17 years old and a senior in high school, the very somewhat unique program that we had at that time in our state, um, with, you know, with the medical school was closest to my home.
And so that I have been doing well, I do for many more years than. Like most other physicians my age would have done just because of having started off so young. And from a professional standpoint, I’ve always worn a lot of different. Yeah. We’ve had a private practice in suburban Cleveland that I’ve run now for over 25 years had been fairly involved in community mental health and.
For the last 18 years, I’ve been involved with the leadership of key ministries you shared. And so that, that our organization was set up to help churches welcome and include families who had kids with disabilities with a special emphasis upon hidden disabilities, you know, specific, you know, emotional behavioral, neurological developmental disabilities, where there are no outwardly apparent physical symptoms.
David Hirsch: I’d like to go back though, and talk a little bit about your dad. I’m sort of curious to know, how would you describe your relationship with your dad?
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: I th I mean, I think we had a great relationship, you know, particularly after he had accepted Christ, he was a man of great integrity and he modeled that through everything that he did.
And I think that. I got a lot of my interest and passion in terms of, you know, sort of studying the Bible, you know, understanding like the, the underpinnings of our faith through the model that he had given me and the model that he had given our family growing up.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. Is there any important takeaway, something that comes to mind when you think about your dad, a lesson learned.
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: You know, he was authentic. I mean, you know, he walked the walk and he talked the talk and that his, his actions truly reflected his beliefs. You know, one of the things that I see a lot with fathers who come through our practice is that, you know, typically when I have like a couple or a family in the room, like the moms usually speaking 90 to 95% of the time, Yeah, for us men, you know, the.
The day to day, example that we set through, how we conduct ourselves in the workplace, how we, um, care for our wives, how we care for our families and how we, um, culture other relationships with, you know, with, with other men, with people in the community has a lot more to say than our words. And so, you know, so I think that.
Having, you know, having that awareness of, you know, the impact of how we conduct ourselves on how, you know, how our children learn and what they’re going to take away from that going forward is something that I’m very aware of, you know, in thinking about my own two girls. Yeah. Well,
David Hirsch: what I think I heard you say is that, um, He walked the walk and his actions reconciled with his philosophy or his faith.
And, um, it’s the basic concept of actions speak louder than words. You don’t have to be the person talking, right. But you do have to be a good role model. You have to be present. And I think of that in many different ways, being present physically, emotionally and spiritually in our kids’ lives. So thanks for sharing.
So you mentioned, uh, you went to medical school, starting. At a very young age, the thought that the mind is Doogie Howser, but maybe you weren’t that young.
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: Why close? I’m
David Hirsch: sort of curious to know, um, where did your career take you? Did you go straight into medicine or did you have a couple of days?
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: No, you know, it’s kind of interesting that I went to medical school with the idea of being a family doc.
And in, in, in, in your third year of med school, like you do rotations through all the major specialties, you know, where you get to do a lot of like hands on stuff. Yeah. I think back and realize that like every baby I delivered is now 35 years old. So you get a chance to get a feel for a lot of different things.
And I hated my OB GYN rotation so bad. I knew I couldn’t do family medicine because that was a required part of it. And then towards the end of my third year of med school, I had my psychiatry rotation. It was interesting because you know, one of the things that I was really struck by at the time was.
How poor the level of care was that people were receiving. Okay. And the guy who was in charge of our rotation told me that as a third year medical student, I was the second best psychiatrist in the city. And so. Well, one of the things that let me think around that time is I found that I enjoyed kids more than I enjoyed adults.
I had this delusional notion that by taking care of kids in some way, I would avoid dealing with a lot of the chronic problems, which was absolutely not true. The knowledge base was manageable enough that I could learn it and feel like I was expert and there was a tremendous need. And it was a place where I thought I could make a big impact career wise very quickly.
So that’s how I ended up as a child psychiatrist.
David Hirsch: Excellent. Well, um, what I remember you
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: were,
David Hirsch: or are a senior clinical instructor for the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at case Western university. You’re the president and founder of family center by the falls founded in 1994. You’ve served as a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Northeastern Ohio medical university.
You’ve been a consultant with the Shire pharmaceuticals or were for over 19 years. Uh, you did a little stint, uh, with, uh, consulting for web MD,
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: right?
David Hirsch: And then, um, you also have, uh, volunteered at a building behaviors autism center, and I’ve been on the board and are the interim president, or at least you have been for a number of years.
So the dedication to the work that you’re doing is impressive. And I’m curious to know from a patient standpoint, from the clinical work that you do, what does family center by the falls do? Who do you serve?
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: So, I mean, we’re a multidisciplinary Mary child and adolescent mental health practice. So we’re also a little smaller than we’ve been historically, but there are half a dozen of us, but you know, part of the idea yeah.
Is that, you know, we’re looking to do very high quality. Interdisciplinary care because you know, different professionals having a system where they can truly work together, especially around, you know, kids with very complex, emotional behavioral and developmental issues is critical. And so a collaborative approach is best something where it’s easy for folks to communicate with one another, you know, and you know, to be able to share their particular perspective.
So the families get the benefit of that, you know, I think is really critical. And so that, that was, that was how our practice was set up and created.
David Hirsch: Great. So what’s the age range of those that you serve?
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: Youngest kid I’ve seen in the last year was four. And typically we will continue to see kids. Through to their first college degree, if their situation isn’t such that they need like more intensive onsite psychiatric service, when they go away to college, the majority, you see your teenagers.
David Hirsch: as far as the range of abilities or challenges that your patients are experiencing, how would you describe that?
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: Okay. Um, well, I saw a kid yesterday that I’ve seen for the last 11 or 12 years who has Asperger’s and an IQ of 157 who taught himself Japanese when he was five years old. Mmm. You know, we’ll see a lot of like really, I mean, like really bright kids.
I would say that probably 10 to 15% of the kids that we would see are on the autism spectrum. But. The vast majority of kids that we would see with autism would be kids of normal to high intelligence. You know, the kids where again, perhaps like they’re more, you know, they’re more nonverbal or they have more significant developmental delays in our area are more likely to be seen by a developmental or behavioral pediatrician or by a pediatric neurologist where I think that the kids on the spectrum who are higher functioning are more likely to be seen by child psychiatrist.
David Hirsch: Okay. So. How do you define success if you’re working with, um, a adolescent or a teenager?
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: Well, I think that success is when we’re able to give them and their family, the tools that they’re able to function up to their potential in terms of their academic potential, their social potential. Their ability to function in an age appropriate way as a member of the family and their ability to participate in the other types of activities, that would be typical in that community for a child of their age.
So again, you know, that that’s sports that’s church that would be, you know, music BR you know, boy Scouts, girl Scouts, like all of the other typical kinds of things that kids do.
David Hirsch: Excellent. So I want to thank you again for being involved in the conference, the special fathers network dad’s Jim conference, we did sometime back.
And one of the things that you had mentioned in your remarks to the a hundred plus dads, raising kids with special needs that participated, had to do with the covert environment that we find ourselves in currently. And I’m wondering from your perspective, if you could, you know, sort of highlight what you.
Are seeing as the short term impact of COVID and maybe what do you anticipate the longer term impact to Cobra to date?
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: So in the short term, it’s kind of been a mixed bag. There’s a subset of kids that we see who we’re dealing with. A lot of anxiety, a lot of frustration around school and their performance in school.
For a lot of those kids, their mood stuff actually got better. And the reason for that is that I wouldn’t say the, the vast majority of school systems greatly lowered their expectations for kids over the last year, several months. And so that the ability to be productive academically and churn out a certain volume of work that meets a standard so that kids will be able to get into the schools that they want is a great pressure.
And for those kids, a lot of them because of. You know, because of the change in expectations, and what’s been demanded of them by their school environment, you know, it’s the middle of March there, their anxiety level and their level of emotional distress on the whole is better. The kids that we’re seeing who are having the greatest problems would be kids where they’re prone to a lot of obsessive thinking, you know, where they get a thoughts stuck in their head and they tend to ruminate and think and thinking, thinking, thinking, think about things.
And we have a very difficult time letting them go. Kids on the high end of the autism spectrum because their entire routine has been thrown for a loop. And that, you know, for them, you know, the structure, the organization, the predictability of the school day, you know, involvement in extracurricular activities becomes really critical to them in terms of, you know, helping them to be able to manage and their obsessiveness and their rumination.
When you don’t have the busy-ness of the day to take your mind off at your junk. A lot of these kids are becoming significantly more angry, irritable, emotional, and in some instances violent. And so, you know, I’m very concerned. I shared with somebody that, um, you know, I’ve been blessed to this point in 29 years doing what I do.
I haven’t lost a kid and very concerned that I’m not gonna make 30, if. Things don’t change. And we don’t get back to a more normal kind of life pattern in the next six to 12 months.
David Hirsch: What I heard you say, if I can paraphrase, there has been some positives, like the lower level of expectations from the schools, sort of taking some pressure off of some of the young people.
And then they heightened a level of anxiety that goes along with these routines being broken. And the lack of access to services needed services during this period of time. So that’s what the situation looks like in the short term. What’s your anticipation, you know, what are the real risks to what we’re talking about longer term?
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: So one of the challenges in looking at this is that we really don’t have anything. To kind of base those kinds of predictions on, cause there’s never been an experience quite like this it’s possible that for a lot of our kids, they will have gone five to six months without having an interaction with another child of roughly their age from outside of their family.
You know, what does that do to you? There’s the whole discussion about the domestic violence piece in that in most communities, the entity, most likely to make reports to child protective services or the schools. You know, you have kids who are in chaotic and violent environments that are likely to get more chaotic and more violent as parents in those environments.
And. In our area. It’s not like the higher income people who are losing their jobs. You know, it’s the truck drivers. So people working in restaurants, it’s the people cleaning offices, you know, the families in which kids are already most vulnerable from an educational developmental standpoint are the ones who are bearing the brunt of this economically.
And that has to have an impact upon how they’re doing.
David Hirsch: So I’d like to switch gears and shift from talking about your experience from a professional perspective and talk about. Your experienced beyond and the founding of key ministry. And my recollection from a prior conversation or conversations is that you had very limited exposure to special needs. I think you may that in sixth grade you were involved with a volunteer project at a Catholic church and that, uh, sadly, or unfortunately your niece, uh, has also had some pretty severe challenges with cerebral palsy and beyond.
And I’m wondering. What roles did though, those experiences play as well as your professional experience and the evolution or starting of key ministry. Okay.
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: I mean, to be honest, my niece’s situation, I don’t think has necessarily a big impact nor did. Whatever volunteer stuff. I think when I did, when I was with like the boy Scouts in fifth or sixth grade, where I got interested in this is that I was serving on the elder board at our church.
And it was probably an a 1997, beginning of 1998. And I was sitting in a board meeting and the woman who was our children’s ministry director at the time had come in to do a presentation because there had been a large cohort of. Highly committed families from our church who had gone over to Russia and Bulgaria after the fall of the iron curtain and adopted kids who had some very complex medical nickel, emotional behavioral, developmental disabilities.
And because of the kinds of problems and challenges these kids are having, these families had been highly involved with church were no longer to be a part of church. He said that these were people that, you know, significant leadership and serving roles. They’d been in small groups, they volunteer and they were, you know, worship services every Sunday.
And. Part of what our children’s director was talking about were what are some of the things that the church was trying to do to support these families so that they could continue to be connected in the face of some of these challenges that they were dealing with, you know, raising these kids with complex disabilities.
So I’m sitting there listening to this and I’m thinking to myself, I wonder if this is a problem for the kinds of families coming to a practice like ours. And again, at the time, probably the three or four most common the conditions we would see would be kids, you know, ADHD, anxiety, depression, other mood problems.
Asperger’s. And so over maybe a 90 day period of time, sort of informally started serving families when they’d come through for their fault. It was one question has the problem that brought you to our practice impacted your family’s ability to attend your church or place of worship. And I was floored by some of the stories that we started to hear.
And so. Working together with like the leadership and the people at our church, you know, that they started experiment and doing some different things to help. Um, you know, as God would have arranged things. Um, I had one of the three original research grants for Adderall. Which became the most common treatment for kids with ADHD.
So for a period of about six or seven years, I was getting invited like on a weekly basis to travel around the country and lecture and teach. And I would mention something about this work that our church was doing as part of the introduction, wherever I went and the church started getting inundated with requests for help.
And so, so we started key ministry specifically for that reason to be able to help churches welcome and include families who had kids with our focus at that time being on these sorts of hidden disabilities. Just to sort of cite an example that I know that there’s one family from our church, and they’re now very involved with the autism community where, you know, again, that they adopted two kids from Eastern Europe with Ottoman one day.
Yeah. I don’t got loose from their Sunday school classroom predator run out the door and began kicking an 80 year old lady on. They’re way out the door. I mean, so we had to start, you know, but people, people like, if someone were to look at this child from their physical appearance, you would have no idea like what they had been through in terms of the, sort of the trauma and neglect.
And so, you know, again, our original, original intent had been sort of this broader focus on hidden disabilities, which would include, you know, autism learning disabilities, mental health issues. The focus for probably the first five to seven years, because we were giving like all of our services away for free we’re oftentimes these kids with the most intense needs who are nonverbal and on the deep end of the autism spectrum, because, you know, at the time that we started this, if you think about like churches and disabilities, like the only sort of like large entity out there was Johnny in France.
And it was very much a focus on physical disabilities. When the data started coming, coming out, like, you know, 2005, six, seven, eight, where people were starting to notice this big increase in the prevalence of autism and certain prominent pastors came forward, who had kids on the autism spectrum and started advocating for their inclusion, that there was a lot of interest at that point around quote, unquote, special needs ministries to be able to serve that particular population.
There’s been an expanded interest around that time. And. Looking at serving the needs of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It’s only been in the last two or three years or so. And sort of like, like if we think about the disability ministry movement, the first wave having been, um, Physical disabilities.
The second way of being more profound autism and intellectual disabilities. The third wave of the disability ministry movement right now, I think is increasingly focusing around mental health inclusion and, you know, welcoming kids and adults with significant mental health issues or trauma.
David Hirsch: Wow. That’s a lot to think about.
Um, it sounds like the organization has evolved a lot. Wow. 18 years from what you said, but the focus has always been on the invisible or hidden disability as opposed to the physical disabilities. Not that those aren’t important, but, uh, um, those are something that you can see and at some level might be easier to understand just because I know that you do a lot of things.
Through key ministry. And one of them is to put on these conferences, which you call inclusion, fusion conferences. What are those about? And who’s involved with this.
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: So what’s called inclusion, fusion alive, not the largest disability ministry conference on annual basis in United States. Unfortunately, we were planning to hold this the last weekend in April.
Like here in suburban Cleveland, we were expecting about 500 folks and we had 70 speakers who are planning to come, you know, for a two day event. And a lot of, all of our main stage stuff, we like live stream for free through Facebook and eventually make available on YouTube. So we actually had about a hundred thousand views last year of the different presentations that were part of inclusion, fusion live.
And so that there’s a component of that. Which is to train and equip churches and other faith leaders, you know, in terms of, you know, different, innovative ways of being able to serving and including the disability population, but there was also an entire track. Involved with our conference, which is involved with parent support.
For example, we know based upon a study that came out of Columbia, that like families in which they have a child with autism, it increases by over 80%, the likelihood that they’ll never set foot in a church or a place of worship. People who are church leaders need to hear directly from folks who are living the special needs of life in terms of some of the challenges that they’re having.
And I can tell you that there are far too many times I would come across people involved with ministry saying we don’t have anybody like that in our church. You know, which when you consider that. You know, 20% of kids in the United States have a significant disability, you know, is saying a lot, right? So the, the, the folks who are leading the church, I need to be in a situation to hear their stories and the folks who are walking through this, as you know, with like the whole special fathers network, you know, need to have other people who have been in or shoes who can help to encourage and support them.
Through this decades, long process of raising and caring for children with disabilities. And so that the, so that the conference is intended to do both, you know, it’s to bring those folks together. It’s the training resource, the churches in terms of how to better serve them and it’s to provide faith-based encouragement and support to parents.
We’re caring for the,
David Hirsch: yeah. Well, it seems like there is a lot going on at these conferences. Not only the. Train and equip the faith leaders, but also including parents seems very, um, meaningful. And I think what I heard you say is that in my way of paraphrasing, it would be the irony that here we are talking about churches who are philosophically organizations that are designed to be inclusive and not judgmental, and to embrace people at wherever they are on their life and their faith journey.
And that. No, this is not the first time I’ve heard somebody say, well, we don’t have any people like that in our congregation. Well, they’re not actively involved in the congregation, which is what the point is. Yes. They’re members of the community, but we’re not creating these a welcoming open. A healthy environments for those people to engage.
And I think that that’s really what I’m impressed by with the work that you’re doing is that you’re helping bridge that gap so that there’s an opportunity to embrace these families, create a more welcoming and inclusive environment. And there is no silver bullet, right? There is not one thing that a religious organization can do to turn the switch on and to make it.
Easy. Um, but I’m hoping what the work that you’re doing and the people that you’re bringing together that you’re remitting, that fabric, that broken fabric and many of our communities and strengthening the churches as
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: a result. I would love to make comment on what you just said. I think it’s important for folks to understand that one of the things that shaped us and that our ministry in particular, that.
I was involved with writing a book called mental health in the church, which basically puts together an inclusion model. And what has heavily influenced this is the sort of the entire, like social and cultural framework for thinking about disability. There’s a guy named Ben Connor. He’s a theology professor up in Michigan who had been running groups for teens and young adults on the high end of the autism spectrum.
And part of how he framed this is that it’s it’s, it’s the culture that. That produces disability and creates barriers. A lot of times for folks who have these kinds of struggles. And so that what we’re talking about, churches doing, it’s a mindset as opposed to a program that we’re asking them to cultivate.
And so like when you start thinking about like, well, what would get in the way. You know, in the same way that like, you know, having steps without like ramps or elevators would be a barrier for someone with a physical disability. What are the barriers for a family where they have a kid with autism? They have a kid with like a mental health issue.
And the reality is, is that there are certain expectations that we have in terms of church culture as to how people are going to act and react. When we get together in group situations. That aren’t necessarily a good fit for people who have autism and other developmental disabilities. So some of the barriers that we talk about would be sensory processing.
And one of the things that we hear a lot from like teens and young adults with autism is that, you know, if you know you process noise and light and touch differently than other folks do. The, the environments that they’re creating in some churches, you know, are oftentimes like, you know, Noxious or distressing if you happen to be on the spectrum, you know, churches are intensely social places.
And so that if you have a condition that impacts your capacity for social communication, you know, picking up on, you know, tone of voice, inflection of voice, body language, facial expressions, like, you know, if you’re a person on the spectrum or, or an example that we use a lot, is that like, One in 15 kids and adults in the United States have social anxiety disorder.
What’s it like visiting a church for the first time? If your brain is basically hard wired to overestimate the level of risk entering into new situations and to. Negatively distort what, what you perceive other people are thinking about you in the moment, you know? And so that part of what we’re trying to help churches to do, and this is for folks with all types of disabilities, I think it applies to folks with mental health issues, but also to some degree, thinking about things on the spectrum is that if you understand the way that.
Folks who have these conditions, you know, how they think, how they experience the world, how they relate to other folks. If you can understand why certain things in your environment might be hard, how do you change the environment in such a way that is more welcoming for everyone? And so that, that’s the approach that we lay out in the book and it’s, it’s, it’s helping.
Pastors and church leaders, you know, to be able to recognize what are the expectations that we have for people when they come to a church activity that make it hard for people with a mental health issue or someone with autism to participate and then look and seeing what you can do to remove as many of those barriers as well.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, that’s fabulous. Thank you for sharing and the title of the book again, as mental health and the church, we’ll include that in the show notes for everybody as well. So. Back to key ministry. I know that you do a weekly blog and you have lots of different contributors. Maurices for churches, there’s articles, there’s a monthly disability ministry video round table that you do, and you do a weekly video round tables, just more recently for COVID 19.
So it sounds like there’s, you know, a lot of things that you’re doing as far as producing content and resources for people and they can all be found at the website, correct?
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: Yeah. So the thing go to keep ministry.work. We actually have two blocks. There’s a church for every child blog. That’s primarily directed at church leaders and church volunteers.
There’s a special needs parenting blog. That’s specifically created for families who have kids with disabilities and the same way we have two Facebook pages. Not alone is the title of the Facebook page that specifically provides resources and support to special needs parents. So we have about 17,000 folks who follow that right now.
You know, if you’re a parent listening to this discussion, you know, I would encourage you. If you’re going to sign up for something on Facebook, get to our website, you can like register so that you get all of the blog posts from. The special needs parenting side and for more interactive stuff to go ahead and sign up to follow, not alone, you know, so that you get access to that content.
But part of what we’re also looking to do, and we’re pro not only we’re providing a service, but I think we have a big role in terms of leading a movement and. One of the things that I found getting involved with ministry stuff is that this is like way too competitive. Our operating principles of the organization is that we like to give other likeminded ministries, a platform for being able to get their stuff out there.
And, you know, to make people more aware of like the full range of, you know, of organizations that are able to help families. Know, what’s really critically important is doing whatever we can to make parents aware of all of the support resources that are out there, whether we’re producing it or not.
David Hirsch: Well, thank you for sharing again.
Very impressive. I’m thinking now under the banner of advice, if there’s an important takeaway that comes to mind that you might suggest for a family. Raising a child or grandchild with different size.
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: One of the things that I’ve observed and this, this pertains specifically to your target audience, is that the group that has been where it’s been most difficult to be able to sort of come up with like larger strategies to be able to provide support or fathers of kids with special needs.
Our church has been piloting some things and we’re looking at different strategies and. This may be unique to our congregation, but one of the things that we had found was that trying to get special needs dads together was like hurting cats. And that a lot of the fathers of kids served by our church’s ministry.
Part of how they would cope with disability would be that they would tend to find jobs where they could make a lot of money, but where they would travel a lot. And it’s easy to justify this. Well, I need to provide for my family that, you know, a lot of these folks are spending like tens of thousands of dollars a year on things that aren’t covered by their insurance.
You know, for other kinds of therapies that, that kids typically need who have significant disabilities. And then in some ways, their way of dealing with it was, you know, to kind of fall into and focus on the role of like economic provider. But. They’ve never really like dealt with their own stuff. And so that, one of the things that I think is critically important, like if you’re a dad dealing with this, it’s important that you seek out and find other dads who have had similar experiences because, you know, guys being guys, we don’t like to talk about our junk to other people, but having other folks who have been.
Through this journey, you know, having other guys who can in here who can give very practical advice and who can help the ads who are just starting to go down this road, you know, to anticipate some of the challenges that poses in terms of marriage. Family dynamics, you know, actively learn from other men’s experiences would be something that I would see as being critically important, which was part of why I was so encouraged to hear about the work that you and your group are doing in Chicago to be able to provide this for dads, because there’s not really anybody else out there doing the work that you guys are doing.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thanks for mentioning that Steve, and, uh, what I’ve experienced the last couple of years as we’ve built the special fathers network is that it’s not that difficult, really to engage dads, the ones with experience. We think of them as our mentor fathers, the ones with, you know, 10 plus years of experience, but what’s super challenging.
And this is not my first rodeo I’ve been advocating for kids and dads for 24 years. Now is. Trying to figure out how to engage those young dads. I’m thinking of like early intervention, zero to three, or the dads that are just on the beginning of their journey with their IEP. They’re in a whole new world, a lot of uncertainty.
And if there’s anything that we can do collectively working together to inspire these young dads to step forward to engage, maybe it’s just listening to the podcast. Maybe it’s just reading some of the posts, educate themselves. To the point where they’re like, Oh, I’m not in this, on my own. I don’t have to figure it out on my own there’s resources out there.
There’s people that have been there and done that. Anyway. I think we’re saying the same things. Let’s give a special shout out to our mutual friend, John Fellageller, who is also a Special Fathers Network, dad to dad podcast, number 65 for helping connect us.
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: Yeah. John has a great ministry. He’s one of the parents who writes for our ministry.
Yeah. And I think it’s neat that he’s like working together a Special Fathers Network to increase the awareness of what you guys are doing within the Christian community. And we certainly plan to continue to support him in doing that.
David Hirsch: Excellent. Is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: again?
I think it’s important that for fathers who are listening and families who are listening to realize that you’re not alone, I mean, incredibly encouraged by. The explosion in interest in supporting families within the faith community about a year or so after we started key ministry, like we. No, we’re doing internet searches at the time, trying to connect with other folks who are doing this kind of ministry.
And we bought, found about seven other churches or organizations in the country at that time that were doing this. We now lead a group for disability and special needs ministry leaders with 2000 members. Like we have lists of networks of like hundreds of churches in most States around the country that.
You have developed a range of supports and services to be able to welcome families that we’re happy to connect folks up to. You know, and, you know, we continue to provide like, you know, um, our resources, like our coaching. We do a lot of internet consultation stuff that we do for churches as free. I mean, so that if you’re a dad or if you’re a family member in a church where you’d like to see your, see your church, develop more of this, to be able to help other families in your community.
I just like to let folks know that we’d like to come alongside you. To be able to do that. And we never let like money or costs be a barrier, you know, in terms of being able to offer the stuff that we do, you know, to churches and families who are interested in generating more support.
David Hirsch: Fabulous. So again, if somebody wants to learn more about key ministry, your work, or to contact you, what’s the best way about doing that?
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: www.chemistry.org is our website. They can follow us on Twitter or on Facebook at key ministry. And again, it’s not alone is the name of the Facebook page that is focused upon family encouragement and support. And so I would encourage. The listeners to the podcast to check out all of those different resources.
David Hirsch: Fabulous. Steve, thank you again for your time. And many insights. As a reminder, Steve is just one of the dads. Who’s part of the Special Fathers Network, a mentoring program for fathers raising a child with special needs. If you’d like to be a mentor father or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation to your own, please go to 21stcenturydads.org.
Thank you for listening to the latest episode of the Special Fathers Network, dad to dad podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did, as you probably know, the 21st Century Dads Foundation is a not for profit or which means we need your help to keep our content free. To all concerned, please consider making a text deductible donation.
I would really appreciate your support. Please also post a review on iTunes, share the podcast with family and friends and subscribe. So you’ll get a reminder when each new episode is produced. Steve, thanks again.
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: Thanks David.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the dad to dad podcast presented by the Special Fathers Network.
The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process, new fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for fathers to support fathers. Go to 21stcenturydads.org. That’s 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com groups and search dad to dad.
Dr. Stephen Grcevich: If you enjoyed this podcast, please be sure to like us on Facebook and subscribe on iTunes or wherever you listen.
The dad to dad podcast is produced by Couch Audio for the Special Fathers Network. Thanks for listening.