Michele Juda has been appointed Executive Director of Parent to Parent of NYS effective January 1, 2014. Employed by Parent to Parent of NYS since 2008, she was initially responsible for directing the work of the Family to Family Health Information Center prior to assuming the role of Director of Programs in 2013. As Executive Director Michele will be responsible for all program and operational functions, ensuring Parent to Parent of NYS is able to fulfill its mission of building a supportive network of families, reducing isolation and empowering those who care for people with developmental disabilities or special healthcare needs to navigate and influence service systems and make informed decisions.
Michele has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Canisius College in Buffalo, NY. Prior to her employment with Parent to Parent of NYS, she had worked in various social services positions, the majority of which have involved assisting caregivers of aging parents in navigating health care and insurance systems. She is currently a fellow in the national Maternal Child Health – Public Health Leadership Institute at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill.
As the parent of two prematurely born children, one of whom required seven months of NICU care and continues to face developmental and medical challenges, Michele initially felt isolated and unsure as she worked to meet their needs. She eventually left paid employment to be a full-time Mom and caregiver to her youngest son. Fear of the future was always nearby, whether that be fear of transitions that lie ahead for her son or fear of long-term family stability in the face of sometimes overwhelming stressors. And yet in all this, joy always found a way to bubble to the surface. Families are uniquely able to understand this mix of emotions. They understand how grief and loss can be part of the emotional array of reactions to parenting a child with special needs. And once families have navigated to stability, confidence, and hope they are in the best position to support other families. Like most of our other employees, it was this lived experience and understanding that brought Michele to Parent to Parent of NYS.
Upon the announcement of her appointment as Executive Director Michele stated, “In times of unprecedented systems change, it is vital to recognize that individuals with disabilities exist within a family system. Families need support: from families in similar circumstances, within their local communities and within broader service systems. It is an honor to work with our staff statewide in carrying out our longstanding tradition of ensuring that families do not feel alone, that someone is available to listen, to share their experiences and knowledge, and to foster hope. In coming together, across lines of disability, to support and strengthen each individual family member, to learn from each other, and to develop positive parent-professional partnerships we ensure the best possible outcomes for our loved ones within families that thrive.”
Michele has previously called both Potsdam and Buffalo home, but now resides near her hometown in Saratoga County with her husband and youngest son. Her eldest son is at home during breaks from his freshman year of college. Michele has an interest in issues that impact foster and adoptive parents, having adopted their youngest son from foster care. She teaches the Model Approaches to Partnerships in Parenting Class for prospective foster and adoptive parents in Saratoga County.
Michele’s mission is to make a difference for families and helping to help them meet their child’s needs. She is regularly teaching parents to advocate for their children and guiding them to learn the questions to ask. Michele makes time to answer questions and help solve problems for both staff and families.