Storytelling for Healing, Storytelling for Justice

Mothers on the Frontline is founded and run by mothers of children with mental health conditions to advance Caregiver Healing, Caregiver Justice, and Children’s Mental Health Justice.

Our vision is a world in which mental health is destigmatized, respected and prioritized as an integral part of the overall health of individuals, families, and communities.

We seek to disrupt deeply entrenched narratives of mother blame, particularly narratives surrounding motherhood of children with mental illness or mental health conditions. 

We strive to support, honor and center motherhood and caregiver healing.

Our Philosophy

Mothers on the Frontline understands children’s mental health to be a social justice issue in how children with mental illness and their families are treated and in how structural violence adversely affects the mental wellbeing of children.

The motherhood of children with mental health conditions has been marginalized and stigmatized in ways that are deeply connected with structural and systemic racism, misogyny, patriarchy and colonialism. This context silences the lived experience of mothers and degrades their essential knowledge about their children and their needs. This silencing both harms the wellbeing of the mother and prevents her ability to adequately advocate for her child.

We believe the experiences of stigmatized caregiving must be named and shared so we can integrate them wholly into our life, fully understanding ourselves so we may grow, learn and heal and be the best advocates for our children.

Our Children’s Mental Health Justice (CMHJ) framework treats mental health as a vital, integral part of the overall health and well-being of all children, families and communities. It considers biological, psychological, environmental, and social influences, as well as the structural violence caused by social, political and economic systems, that contribute to mental health and illness.

Children’s Mental Health Justice:

  • Requires an integrative approach to treatment and wellness.
  • Encompasses the full spectrum from mental well-being to severe mental illness.
  • Is restorative rather than punitive, collaborative rather than behaviorist, and has as its goal wellbeing and agency rather than compliance to power.
  • Is inter-relational and interdependent rather than individualistic.
  • Values the lived experiences of children, families and caregivers as providing indispensable knowledge and wisdom necessary to articulate needed change.
  • Actively involves children, caregivers, and families in creating restorative and collaborative systems, including:
    • Educational Systems
    • Health Care Systems
    • Human Service Systems
    • Justice Systems
    • Legal Systems
    • Community Systems

Our Practice

We facilitate workshops to help communities and organizations develop storywork skills among its members for healing, advocacy, and justice.

We normalize discussions about children’s mental health justice through our podcast series, in which mothers and other central caregivers share their lived experience, helping listeners know that they are not alone.

We share lived experience (through speaking and writing) with policy makers, community organizers, service providers, and the public to increase understanding of how children’s mental health intersects with other aspects of the lives of children, their families and communities and to advocate for positive policy change surrounding these issues.

Our Areas of Policy Focus

Dismantling the Cradle to Prison Pipeline and School-Prison Nexus that disproportionately targets children of color and children with disabilities – particularly in cases of intersectional oppressions (e.g., disproportionate seclusion, restraint, suspension, and expulsion of black youth with learning disabilities, developmental disabilities (e.g., autism) and mental health conditions.)

Access to culturally appropriate and competent mental health and educational services.

Centering the knowledge and wisdom of mothers in the envisioning and creating of restorative and collaborative systems for our children.

Our Storywork Methodology

Collaborative Community Research.

Reciprocal peer interviewing.

Interviewers share salient lived experience with interviewees and are trained in empathetic listening and creating healing spaces in which participants feel safe to be brave and share their truth.

A profound respect for the storyteller’s ability and right to frame and contextualize their own story. (For example, we do not edit the content of the stories in the podcast.)

A deep commitment to the principles of Agency, Empathy, Transparency, Holism, Interrelatedness and Integration. Our approach is deeply influenced by the work of Jo-ann Archibald /  Q’um Q’um Xiiem and her writings, including Indigenous Storywork: Educating the Heart, Mind, Body, and Spirit, UBC Press, 2008.)

We are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization

Mothers On the Frontline
308 E. Burlington St. #201,
Iowa City, IA 52240


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