Keep reading to learn more about Family Peer Support Specialists—who we are, where we work, trainings, and answers to frequently asked questions.

Who are Family Peer Support Specialists?

Family Peer Support Specialists (FPSS) have the opportunity to positively impact families through support and education. Family Peer Support Specialists draw on their own experience as a parent or primary caregiver of a child with an emotional, behavioral or mental health need. They work to empower families by teaching skills that assist them in finding their own voice. A FPSS has current knowledge of the mental health system and most importantly, recognizes the life experience of raising a child with a mental health diagnosis.

Family Peer Support Specialists (FPSS) provide a variety of services to families. These include sharing expertise by providing information, teaching coping skills, providing emotional support and helping parents become advocates. Family Peer Support Specialists often help families navigate the child serving systems and help them understand available options for their child. FPSSs may accompany parents to meetings to ensure the parents’ voices are heard. They are able to assist families by modeling good communication skills and sharing their own experiences in a positive manner.

Where do Family Peer Support Specialists work?

Family Peer Support Specialists may be employed at social service agencies, clinics, residential programs and other community based organizations. Family Peer Support Specialists may also serve on a variety of advisory boards and committees at local, state, and national levels.

Family Peer Support Specialist Trainings

Training for Family Peer Support Specialists is in two parts: Phase 1: Self-Paced Online Content Training (approximately 25-35 hours to complete) and Phase 2: In-Person Skills Training. Participants must complete Phase 1: Self-Paced Content Training to be admitted into Phase 2: In-Person Skills Training, and participants must complete both phases in order to complete training. 

Offering self-paced online training allows flexibility; new hires can start training immediately rather than wait for a scheduled in-person session. Because time away from work is reduced to only three days, the program expects participants will be given at-work time to complete online training.

FPSS Training June 2024


Applications are closed and the training class is full. 

Phase 1: Self-Paced Online Content Training 

May 13th - June 21st, 2024

Phase 2: In-Person Skills Training.

Wednesday, June 26th - Friday, June 28th, 2024 (8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.)


Iowa City

FPSS Training October 2024


Applications for FPSS October Training will open on Tuesday, August 6th, 2024 at noon. At that time, a link to apply will be posted here.

Phase 1: Self-Paced Online Content Training 

September 3rd - October 11th, 2024

Phase 2: In-Person Skills Training.

Wednesday, October 16th - Friday, October 18th, 2024 (8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.)


West Des Moines

Training Details

  • System of Care & Shared-Decision Making
  • Role of the Family Peer Support Specialist
  • Ethics & Boundaries
  • Laws & Regulations affecting families
  • Professionalism: Supervision, Documentation,
  • Reimbursement and Funding
  • Cultural Competency
  • Understanding Mental Illness
  • Special Education
  • Wellness & Self-care
  • Trauma-Informed Care
  • Parenting
  • Communication Skills (active listening, sharing
  • personal resiliency story, conflict management)
  • Advocacy Skills (coaching and goal-setting, offering
  • resources)
  • Assisting the Family (offering resiliency and hope,
  • problem-solving, crisis planning)

Grounded in adult learning theory, this training:

  • Covers competencies set by the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health
  • Trains to the Iowa Peer Support Specialist Scope of Practice
  • Meets quality training standards
  • Prepares participants for certification by the Iowa Board of Certification

Phase 1: Self-Paced Online Content Training
Online training offers a knowledge base and content for practice as an FPSS. The online training courses take approximately 25-35 hours to complete.

Phase 2: In-Person Skills Training
In-Person training provides the setting for participants to practice skills in a safe learning environment. You must commit to attending the entire three-day training. 

You must arrange and pay for your own lodging (if applicable). If you are currently employed as a Family Peer Support Specialist, check with your employer about covering these expenses.

This training is FREE, however, trainees must pay for their own lodging, food and travel costs. If you are currently employed as a Family Peer Support Specialist, check with your employer about covering these expenses.

You must make arrangements for your own food. You will have an hour for lunch and there are many food options near the training site. Most training locations do not allow outside food to be brought in.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this training, please contact us at 319-467-4288 or 319-467-4296 or email us at

Family Peer Support Specialist FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

You must have a high school diploma or GED.

The training will provide you with in-depth knowledge and skills. However, in general the FPSS role involves the ability to:

  • Be a parent or caregiver of a child with a mental health diagnosis.
  • Willing to share your own personal story of caring for a child with a mental illness.
  • Provide support for families as one who has been there.
  • Assist families with finding community and natural supports.
  • Advocate for a family’s’ needs and model self-advocacy.
  • Model effective self-care and coping techniques.
  • Work with families from diverse socio economic and cultural backgrounds.
  • Ability to maintain a part-time or full-time work schedule.
  • Work as a member of a team.
  • Communicate effectively both verbally and in writing.
  • Adhere to confidentiality and understand protected health information.
  • Maintain records and provide accurate documentation.
  • Use computers (email, web searches, word processing).

You must be 21 years of age to take Family Peer Support Specialist training.

When applications are open there will be a link above to click and apply for Family Peer Support Specialist Training.

  • You will receive an email response within 48 hours with a link to the online application.
  • Applications will be screened when the application process closes. See date listed under specific trainings for closing dates. Training spaces are limited, so apply early.
  • You will be asked to provide contact information for 2 references.
  • Once your application is received, you may be contacted with information regarding a phone interview.
  • After the screening interview, you will be notified about whether or not you will be accepted for training.
  • At this time, Family Peer Support Specialist training is being prioritized for individuals currently employed as a FPSS. Those with a pending employment opportunity will also be considered.

For questions, please email us at

Certified Family Peer Support Specialist (FPSS) Requirements

Administered by the Iowa Board of Certification (IBC). For detailed information, download the Certified Family Peer Support Specialist and Mental Health Peer Support Specialist (FPSS & MHPSS) Handbook at To be certified in Iowa as a Family Peer Support Specialist, you need to meet the following requirements:

Application and Examination

  • To apply, go to the IBC website at, and click on the "FPSS Application".
  • Applications should be submitted to IBC with the non-refundable $60.00 fee. This fee covers application review and the first two years of certification.

Education and Training Requirements

  • High School Diploma or GED.
  • A certificate of completion must be submitted from the Iowa Family Peer Support Specialist Training provided by the University of Iowa or an equivalent model approved by the Iowa Board of Certification.
  • Proctored exam.

Experience and Supervision Requirements

  • A minimum of 500 hours of work/practicum/volunteer experience.
  • A minimum of 25 hours of face-to-face supervision.

Mental Health First Aid (Youth or Adult)

  • Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour course that teaches you how to help someone who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge. The training helps you identify, understand, and respond to signs of addictions and mental illness.
  • Find a Mental Health First Aid course near you using the search tool at

Questions? Contact the IBC office at 515-965-5509 or email at