(802) 876-5315
Strong Families. Strong Futures.
Greetings, VFN family and friends!

October is here with all its usual Vermont beauty in the changing seasons. I hope that you and yours are getting a chance to enjoy the changes that autumn is bringing. We have been hearing from many stakeholders as we develop VFN’s legislative platform for inclusion in the Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights (VCDR) advocacy work in the coming session. We have also been communicating with leaders in the Agency of Human Services, the Agency of Education, and the Vermont Legislature about the heightened concerns we have about the health, education, and mental health needs of our children and youth with disabilities or special health needs. More than ever we are also helping to carry the concerns of families of adults with significant disabilities who need help with housing options and supportive services. Recent news about lengthy waits for health and mental health services, as well as the difficulties many schools are experiencing in supporting students as they continue to deal with the chaos of COVID, have us particularly focused on enhancing peer supports and ensuring that students’ special education and mental health needs are being met. We know that there are significant workforce issues and are trying to imagine new and creative ways to address that from a family perspective. Your ideas are welcome as we lift family voices for positive change. What can we imagine? Let me know. Together, we can make a real difference as Vermont decides how to move forward with the assistance of American Rescue Plan Act resources. Contact me at pam.mccarthy@vtfn.org.

From the heart,
Pam McCarthy, M.Ed.
Our FY 2021 Annual Report!

VFN is excited to share its FY21 Annual Report! Please take a moment to enjoy these stories of impact and beautiful photos of some of our VFN families and let us know what you think at info@vtfn.org!
National Disability Employment
Awareness Month
This year’s theme is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.” It emphasizes the importance of people with disabilities having full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. If your high school student on an IEP is interested in employment after graduation and has not yet been connected to Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), please reach out! VR Transition Counselors can provide services such as job exploration counseling, work-based learning experiences, counseling on postsecondary education at institutions of higher education, workplace readiness training, and instruction in self-advocacy. For information and resources related to transitioning to adulthood, check out VFN’s Transition Toolkit for Youth with Disabilities.

For more information on how VR services may fit into your high school child’s IEP or Section 504 or any other transition-related concern, please call the VFN helpline at 802-876-5315.
Advocacy Alert!
VFN is working with families who are advocating for more housing choices for adults with developmental disabilities. Families are calling for a continuum of housing based on the diverse needs of adults with developmental disabilities that is safe, inclusive and creates community through rich learning opportunities and community engagement. To join this effort, please email 
freednermaguire@gmail.com and indicate that you would like to be added to the listserv.
To take action in support of housing choices for adults with developmental disabilities, please sign the petition today. 
Upcoming Sibshops
Did you know that the siblings of a child with special health care needs or disabilities often have experiences that mirror those of their parents? That is why we know it’s so important to include siblings in the Family Support model! Sibshops are for children 6+ who have a brother or sister with a disability or special health need. They provide an opportunity to connect, share a snack, and discuss the ups and downs of being a “sib,” all while doing a fun activity at VFN or in the community. From Get Air to MetroRock, we’ll be doing lots of cool outings and activities this year - check out our Activities Description List to see what, where, and when each Sibshop will be. If you’d like to get to know your Sibshop facilitators, check out our Facilitator Bios page.

If your child wants to join us this year, please fill out our Sibshop Registration Form. If you are not ready to commit but want to keep a pulse on our activities and updates for the year, you can email mindy.deibler@vtfn.org to be added to our Sibshop email distribution list.

Upcoming Sibshops that will be held at Vermont Family Network are:
  • November 13 – Attitude of Gratitude 1:00-3:30 pm
At this Sibshop, we will complete some fun activities, crafts and treats that all center around the theme of this Sibshop, which is Gratitude.
  • December 11 – Cookie Decorating 1:00-3:30 pm
What better way to celebrate the winter season and holidays than with cookie decorating?! We will supply the cookies, frosting and fun decorations… sibs supply the creative vision! The theme of this Sibshop is Creativity.
News from the Puppets!
We are thrilled to welcome Jon van Luling to the Puppet Team! Jon brings considerable theatrical, improv, puppeteering and technical experience, as well as being a parent and an enthusiastic teacher. We now have a strong team of five!

PiE has kicked off the year with several performances about Worry/Anxiety/Stress and Kindness (Bullying Prevention). Students have so much to tell the puppets! This is just a tiny fraction of what kids have said:

  • “I worry about my brother, being in the army. I stay in my room and take some deep breaths.” 1st Grader
  • “Kids worry about being in small spaces or where there is a lot of people.” 6th Grader
  • “People worry about getting bad grade on tests, which leads to not getting into college, and then to not getting a good job.” 5th Grader
  • “One of the people in my life worries about being homeless.” 5th grader
  • “[If you witness someone being unkind] you can say, I saw what that person did to you, and I respect you, and I want to help you.” 3rd Grader
For the fall semester, we will be offering virtual programs only, although we hope to offer in-person programs starting in January 2022. Our website also has information for scheduling a presentation, the logistics, cost, and potential funding options. To schedule a program, please fill out this form, or email karen.sharpwolf@vtfn.org.
Return to School Roadmap
This U.S. Department of Education OSEP Q&A covers numerous topics ranging from special education services and process; social, emotional, behavioral, mental health and medical needs of children with disabilities; compensatory services; secondary transition services; and dispute resolution. The document clarifies that regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic, all children with disabilities are entitled to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE). If you have questions or need additional support in understanding IDEA’s requirements for your child on an IEP, please call VFN Family Support Consultants at 802-876-5315.
Virtual Support Parent Training
Would you like to support other parents who have a child with a disability or special health care need? Could you draw on your own experience to offer empathy, inspiration, and a listening ear in times of need? If so, you might be ready to become a trained VFN Support Parent! We are very excited to announce our next virtual Support Parent Training. This free, three-hour training offers an opportunity for connection, learning, and self-reflection, all from the comfort of your own home! If you are interested in this opportunity, we encourage you to fill out our Support Parent Volunteer Application as soon as you are able. After you have completed the application, you will receive an email with the Zoom registration links from our Support Parent Training coordinator, Mindy.
Upon becoming a trained Support Parent, we can add you to our network of Trained Support Parents for Parent Matching! Even if you have been a Support Parent before, we encourage you to take this training to enhance your support skills. If you cannot make these training dates, please either fill out the application linked above or email Mindy at mindy.deibler@vtfn.org with your interest, so she can let you know when future training dates will be. Our next training opportunity will be: Saturday November 6, from 9-noon.
Upcoming Events - Register today!

Save the Date for our 2022 Annual Conference - April 14, 2022
We are excited to announce that we will be bringing Pete Wright from Wrightslaw to present on special education law and advocacy for a full day! We plan to hold an in-person conference at the Delta Hotel in Burlington and registration will be coming out early this fall.

Free Workshops

November 3 from 1:00 - 2:00 pm - "How Families and Providers Can Access Resources Through VT 211 and Help Me Grow VT"
Margaret Armstrong the 211 Contact Center Manager and Elizabeth Gilman the Help Me Grow Program Manager will discuss the services each program provides, how their partnership works, and how families and service providers can access both programs directly for support and resources. Staff will also demonstrate how to use the VT 211 online community resource directory. Register here.

November 10 from 1:00 - 2:00 pm - "Special Education Rule Changes – What Does This Mean For Families?"
Marilyn Mahusky, Staff Attorney with the Disability Law Project at Vermont Legal Aid and Karen Price, Co-Director of Family Support at Vermont Family Network will discuss the changes in the Vermont Special Education rules that will take effect in July 2022. Among the changes are the definition of special education services and adverse effect, the addition of functional performance, increased parent voice and the elimination of the discrepancy model. Learn what this mean for your child’s IEP.

In case you missed our last series of workshops, you can find a full list on our VFN website. Stay tuned as we add more workshops to our fall schedule!

We save workshops on our website and YouTube channel.
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Contact our Helpline at (802) 876-5315 or info@vtfn.org

(802) 876-5315 / 1-800-800-4005
600 Blair Park Rd, Ste 240,
Williston, VT 05495