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When Teryasia Mompoint gave birth to her daughter Winter in December of 2021, it was the inspiration she needed to work to get all her children home. Prior to Winter’s birth, she had dealt with domestic violence, addiction, and other significant challenges. Her eight older children had been taken away by New York’s Administration for Children's Services (ACS).

“When I found out I was pregnant with Winter, I went into a mother and child program and was able to keep my baby from the day she was born,” said Mompoint. “She is the reason for me continuing to push.”

In addition to finding inspiration from Winter’s birth, Mompoint found her greatest cheerleader in Kathryn Wright, YAI’s Supervisor of the ACS Developmental Disabilities Unit’s Essential Parenting Supports’ Parent Skills Training Program, which supports parents with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), whether they have a formal I/DD diagnosis or not.

“The expectations put on parents in our program are ridiculous,” said Wright. “A lot of people have the attitude, ‘Oh, they have a disability, they shouldn’t be a parent.’ That’s one of the main things that we’re working with the ACS Developmental Disabilities Unit on—we want to change that perspective. Our parents are amazing. They’ve gone through all this stuff, and they can still show up with a smile on their face. A lot of the parents never had anyone who played with them. So that’s one of our big things is getting them to feel comfortable to be silly and play with their kids.”

A goal of “feeling comfortable to be silly” might seem minor, but for many families in the ACS Parent Skills Training Program, it is nothing short of revolutionary. Many have grown up in foster care, without family support. Combined with the stigma of I/DD and the natural insecurities that arise with having a child, programs like this set parents up for success.

According to a National Institutes of health study, mothers with intellectual disabilities face multiple pregnancy risk factors. These include younger maternal age, single parenthood, lower socioeconomic position, poorer mental health, and the possibility newborns with low birthweight. The study emphasizes the urgent need to address these challenges, suggesting people, “address parental social skills, relationships and networks to reduce social isolation.” The study also highlights the importance of addressing the mental health needs of all parents, regardless of ability.

The ACS Parent Skills Training Program started as a collaboration between ACS and YAI in 2020. The program started online with a focus on parenting groups. Since then, the program has expanded to include parent skills training, one-to-one parent coaching, case management, and linkage to supports and services.

According to Carli Ovadek, Parent Resource Manager within the ACS Developmental Disabilities Unit, growing the program based on families’ needs is key to its success.

"As more and more families are connected, there’s been a greater understanding of some of the needs of parents,” said Ovadek. “Through that increased understanding, we’ve found out how we can further support those needs.” 

Since the program has been able to adapt to meet the needs of its families, it has grown significantly. Its original contract was with two providers for $100,000 for one year. In October 2023, the contract was renewed with three providers and a $2.8 million budget for three years.

“We’ve had many positive outcomes,” said Ovadek. “We’ve seen parents that have had increased visitations, overnight visitations, and we’ve seen children that have moved back home while they were engaged in the program. We’ve also seen a lot of individual empowerment through the program, as well as developing parenting skills.”

For Mompoint, the program has helped her build self-confidence and communication skills.

“When I went into rehab, that’s when ACS set me up with Ms. Kat [Wright]. We would talk on the phone and on Zoom, and we would go over game plans,” said Mompoint. “Even virtually, she was a tremendous help. She’s very hands-on, and I’ve learned how to communicate. And most importantly, I’ve learned to care for myself. And here we are now with five children home—three with me, and two with their father...My kids have all endured trauma, but that doesn’t stop them from being stars.”

Mompoint’s positive attitude is exactly what Wright hopes program participants will gain through the parent skills program.

"We've expanded our parent coaching with a curriculum rooted in positive psychology. This approach is essential since our parents have diverse needs," explained Wright. "We combine mindset shifts with practical help – addressing everything from diaper changes to preparing formula, and generally understanding your child's unique needs. Everything is very person-centered.”

“My advice for any parent, even if they’re not in my similar circumstances, would be: be patient with yourself,” said Mompoint. “Every day is a learning experience. No parents are perfect parents. And take your time with learning your child.”

For questions about the program, or to refer someone to the ACS DD Unit, please email