About Us


Our History

The G.E.A.R. Parent Network was started by Charlene Milliken, a parent and foster parent who recognized the need for positive help and support for parents coping with the demands of caring for children with special needs. The G.E.A.R. Parent Network began in 1987 with a membership of just one: Charlene Milliken.

What began as a parent support group in a small, spare room at the Elizabeth Levinson Center in Bangor has blossomed across the state, drawing countless parents together. Her then 12-year-old daughter was acting out and running away, and Charlene didn’t know what to do. Unable to get the support she needed from schools, law enforcement or other professionals, Charlene did the only thing she knew how to do: she fought back.

Our Mission Statement:

As a totally parent-run Family Organization our primary mission is to empower parents of children and youth who have emotional and behavioral health needs to effect their own life decisions through sharing our lived experiences and knowledge, promoting hope and self-reliance with no shame, no blame, and no judgment.

Our Values:
  • Family/youth voice and choice in planning and delivery of services
  • Family/youth lived experiences and life-long learning
  • Family/youth empowerment
  • Partnering in advocacy and collaboration
  • Evidence-based practices
  • Community-based, family-driven, youth-guided, trauma-informed, and culturally and linguistically competent systems of care

FREE support available to parents and families include:

  • 1:1 parent-peer support to parents/caregivers
  • Emotional support and family-centered training
  • Educational workshops and conferences
  • Positive parenting skills education and peer mentoring
  • Social and networking events to reduce isolation, enhance natural supports, and promote resiliency factors
  • Increased awareness of children’s behavioral health needs
  • Advocacy in the Maine’s system of care for comprehensive, coordinated, community-based, trauma-informed and family/youth-driven services.

“I learned that the approach from G.E.A.R. is different than the typical behavioral help that we began to know. What I liked most about my parent partner was that she came from a place of understanding and knowledge that no book could teach you. Having someone who has been there, or if not, knows parents who have, gives me a little bit more hope than I had in the beginning. To be honest, sometimes it is just nice to have a regular person, a peer, because sometimes a person with a big degree, credentials, fancy car, fancy clothes and preconceived expectations is not 100% what we need.”
– GEAR Parent Participant

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