Behind the Desk with Kristina Sonstroem

Our Mental Health First Aid Trainer and Parent Educator

Kristina Sonstroem, Parent educator with Parents as Teachers, Mental Health First Aid Trainer

Meet Kristina Sonstroem! Kristina is our Mental Health First Aid Trainer and a Parent Educator with our Parents as Teachers Program!

Parents as Teachers (PAT) is an evidence-based home visiting program that uses the most current research to promote healthy child development, school readiness, and family well-being for families with children prenatal through kindergarten. PAT is a free “any child, any family” service. As a Parent Educator, she works one-on-one with families, offers support, and focuses on the well-being of the entire family unit. She also helps parents gain the knowledge and skills required to raise thriving and raise healthy children.

As a Mental Health First Aid Trainer, in partnership with St. Pete College and Love IV Lawrence Foundation, she teaches classes on how to assist someone experiencing a mental health or substance use-related crisis. Individuals who take the training learn risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns, strategies for how to help someone in both crisis and non-crisis situations, and where to turn for help.

Today, Kristina gives us a glimpse of who she is beyond the desk!

1. Tell us about yourself! 

I was born and raised in Central Florida. I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of South Florida – St. Petersburg and a master’s degree in public health from the University of South Florida. I was an intern with the Baby Bungalow program during my master’s degree and I started as a parent educator with Parents as Teachers 3 and a half years ago. I am getting married at the beginning of next year and I am so excited to be a wife! 

2. What’s something most people don’t know about you?

Most people don’t know that I have a fashion Instagram page. It is my biggest form of self-care. I love putting together outfits and taking pictures. It is the one creative thing that I enjoy doing for myself. 

3. When you have 30 minutes of free time, how do you pass the time?

If I have 30 minutes of free time I am probably working on content for my fashion Instagram or watching something on Netflix. 

4. What satisfies you the most about your current position with Champions?

What satisfies me most as a parent educator is seeing the progress the families I work with make. When you work with families for several years you see a lot of transformation – not only in the kids but in the parents as well. Even knowing I had a tiny bit to do with that progress is so cool and rewarding. Home visitors get to have such a unique relationship with families. They really trust us, and I hope they all get something out of our relationship. I know that I get something different out of working with each family. They have helped my worldview expand and grow as well. I have met people from all over the world and learned about their cultures. That was an unexpected perk of this job.

5. As our Mental Health First Aid Trainer, why is it important to educate people on how to aid people experiencing mental health situations?

Mental Health First Aid is something I use often in my work and in my own life. Knowing the signs that someone may be dealing with a mental health crisis and how to approach them is a valuable skill. There are specific interactions, especially in my daily job, that I knew how to handle because of this training.

We can’t keep hard things from happening to our families, but we can have a toolkit that allows us to help them when the hard times come. As a society, we have come a long way in valuing mental health and treating mental health challenges the same as physical challenges, but we still have a long way to go. Reducing the stigma around mental health and teaching people to use person-first language is another reason I love the Mental Health First Aid curriculum. Language matters and you never know what the people in your life are going through.

6. How did you become a Mental Health First Aid trainer?

I became a Mental Health First Aid trainer because Nikki Daniels, our Associate Director, knew that I have an interest in trauma-informed care and mental health. When they were looking for trainers, she remembered that and asked if I would be interested. I am so thankful she asked me to be a trainer! It has led to other opportunities to become a trainer for other curricula, but it all started with Mental Health First Aid. There are many days I am happy to have this training under my belt.

7. What’s your favorite thing about working at Champions?

My favorite thing about working at Champions is the families. I have families that I have been working with for 3 and a half years. Some of them I started with prenatally and now they have children in preschool. When people invite you into their homes monthly it is such an honor to be a part of their parenting journey. I don’t take that lightly. They are hands down the most rewarding part of the job.

8. Anything else you want to share?

I just want to share how thankful I am to Champions for Children for offering so many wonderful trainings to their staff. They really value continuing education for professionals. Not only has it given me opportunities to become a trainer, but it has allowed me to participate in some wonderful training offered by others. I’m a firm believer that there is always more to learn, and you never know when something you learned in a training will come in handy!

At Champions for Children, our greatest asset is the quality and competency of our staff. We believe effective service depends on qualified and competent staff who feel integrated into our organization. We are thankful for staff members like Kristina who believe in our mission and give their all to the families we serve.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We understand the impacts mental health issues can have on someone and how that can affect children. If you are in need of help call our Parent Warm Line at 813-673-4646 ext. 7 and our parenting experts will connect you with community resources to get you the support you need.
To learn more about our mental health first aid training and sign up for the next one on June 8th, visit