(802) 876-5315
Strong Families. Strong Futures.
Hello VFN Family and Friends,

We have officially transitioned into fall, one of my favorite times of year with when Vermont shows off her beauty! I have been enjoying watching the fall colors emerge and the delicious apples I was able to pick at the local orchard down the street. Next week, several Family Support staff and I will be attending the national Family Leadership Conference hosted by Family Voices, the Center for Parent Information and Resources @ SPAN and the Regional Parent TA Centers. The theme for this year’s conference is Moving Forward: Embracing Change and Transformation and there will be a diverse group of attendees from all over the country.

While some of us will be at the Family Leadership Conference, other staff will be attending the Health Equity Summit, hosted by the University of Vermont, the Larner College of Medicine, College of Nursing and Health Sciences, and the University of Vermont Health Network. This one-day conference will focus on dismantling institutional inequities, improving patient experience, and inspiring communities to make advances in health equity. We are excited to be able to participate in these conferences both in-person and virtually and we will be bringing new information and resources back to our VFN staff so that we can better support the families and children we serve.

Our Puppets in Education program has officially begun their puppeteering season in schools. They kicked off their shows at Union Street Elementary in Springfield Vermont with their program on Cerebral Palsy. This show has been on hiatus during the pandemic and the puppeteers were excited to bring it back with the help of retired puppeteer and board member Mary K. Dennison. Moving forward, although many of their shows will continue to be their Kindness and Anxiety programs, they will be able to accommodate schools with other shows that are requested.

We continue to recruit candidates for our Communication Coordinator and a Family Support Consultant-Mental Health positions. Please visit our website for more information regarding the jobs and how to apply. We are also looking forward to our upcoming Leadership Series with its first of three weekends on the weekend of October 29th and our first Family Advisory Council meeting which is scheduled for November 10th from 6:30-7:45pm. More information will be coming out on how to sign up for the Family Advisory Council so stay tuned. So many exciting happenings this fall with several that are returning for the first time since the start of the pandemic! 

From the heart,
Sarah Wallace-Brodeur
Interim Executive Director
VFN 2022 Annual Report

We are pleased to present our 2022 Annual Report. We hope that you will enjoy learning about some of our accomplishments over the past year, and that this report will demonstrate how our donors’ contributions have made a significant and positive impact on our work with children and families across the state.
VFN and HireAbility Vermont
VFN works in collaboration with HireAbility Vermont, formerly Vocational Rehabilitation VT, to bring information about post-secondary options to families and youth with disabilities. We help families and youth access HireAbility VT in-school offerings during the transition to adulthood process. VFN also partners with HireAbility VT on projects that highlight youth leadership and perspective.

One leadership project is the Youth Advisory Council which is made up of youth ages 14 to 24 years old who have a disability or special health need. Council members participate in leadership training and opportunities that impact how Vermont prepares students with disabilities for life after high school. Interested youth should apply here: Vermont Youth Advocacy Council Application 2022.

VFN has facilitated a youth panel in HireAbility Vermont’s annual fall Interagency Event. This panel highlights youth perspective and experience in the transition process to professionals who work in the education and adult services fields. If your young person is interested in participating in such panels, please contact martha.frank@vtfn.org.

For more information on transitioning to adult life, call VFN Family Support at 876-5315 or check out our Transition Toolkit for Youth with Disabilities.
Coordinated Services Plan (Act 264) Meetings
When a child with a disability or special health need requires services from multiple organizations, and families need help with coordinating those services, they may be eligible for a Coordinated Services Plan (CSP). This tool coordinates the parties involved in a child’s care by bringing all the providers together at one meeting. Families who access the CSP are entitled to a parent representative who can support the family before, during and after the CSP meeting. VFN Family Support Consultants, through a collaboration with the Vermont Department of Mental Health and several designated agencies, support families in the CSP process in the role of parent rep in many parts of the state.

If you have any questions regarding the parent representative role and how to access one for your meeting, Act 264 or mental health supports in general, please contact the VFN helpline at 802-876-5315 or info@vtfn.org.
Support Parent Training
We are seeking Support Parent volunteers! If you are at a point in your parenting journey where you are ready to support another family, please consider becoming a trained VFN Support Parent with our Parent Match Program. Through a one-to-one “match,” experienced Support Parents offer emotional support to families and assist them in finding information and resources. Over the years, VFN has made hundreds of parent matches and we hear from parents again and again about how helpful it was to talk with another parent who has “been there.”

In our new format, participants will be sent materials to review at your leisure prior to the virtual gathering. After review of the materials, you can choose a virtual gathering that works best for your schedule to discuss the parent match process, review necessary skills, and share family stories. These zoom meetings will be scheduled every other month. The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, November 17th from 12 to 2 p.m.

Interested parents can complete this Survey Monkey application. After we receive your application, Mindy will reach out to begin the training process. Please email mindy.deibler@vtfn.org with any questions.
News from Puppets
The Puppets kicked off the year with a GREAT day at Union Street School in Springfield, Vermont. We debuted the revised Cerebral Palsy program and presented to a curious and inquisitive audience of 4th graders. They had more than 40 questions! Mary K. Dennison revived her role as Mark and was joined by Deb Lyons as Mel reuniting the duo who puppeteered for decades together.

  • “The conversation between Mark and Mel was very age appropriate. Very skilled puppeteers!” -Teacher
  • “I was impressed with the 4th graders’ questions and comments.” -Teacher
  • “Thank you so much for the show today! (My son) has been all smiles since we came home, it really meant a lot to him, and to me too!” -Mom
  • “Thank you both! It was entertaining and educational simultaneously! I'm so glad to hear that (our student) has been all smiles since the show.”  -David Cohn, Principal
Now that we are back in person, the program menu has expanded! We have combined the Anxiety and Kindness programs and added Friendship and Feelings. The Sexual Abuse Awareness is being edited and will be available in 2023.

The Puppet calendar is booked for the fall, but there are lots of openings January to May. We have a long list of schools who would like programming but need financial support. If you would like to sponsor one of these schools, or inquire about programs, please contact karen.sharpwolf@vtfn.org.
Join us for our next Sibshop on October 22nd at Whitcomb’s Farm in Williston from 1-3. We will be celebrating the Fall with treats, games, and a stroll through the corn maze. The theme of this shop is Problem Solving.

Sibshops are fun activities for children ages 6 to 13 who have a brother or sister with a disability or special health need. Sibs have 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. Check out our Activities Description List to see what, where, and when each Sibshop will be.

If you have questions or you would like 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.

We look forward to seeing our Super Sibs soon!
Wellness Window!
Yay for Fall in VT!

Here are some sensory-friendly ideas for enjoying this magical season:
  • Take a daytime trip to a corn maze, the woods, or a pumpkin patch, and admire the fall colors.
  • Make a sensory bin full of pumpkin guts, or acorns, leaves, and mini gourds. Or try painting with acorns!
  • Apple cider donuts! One VFN family likes to hang them from trees and tries eating them without touching them!

It’s also Halloween season, which can be overwhelming for some. Help make it successful in sensory-friendly ways:
  • Make costumes out of everyday clothes. Say no to scratchy materials!
  • Practice trick or treating ahead of time at home or with trusted friends & neighbors.
  • Look at photos of past Halloweens together and/or practice the route you’ll take this Halloween.
  • It’s okay NOT to trick or treat. There are so many ways to have fun!
Find what works for your family and enjoy!
Join Our Team!
We are currently seeking applicants for the following positions:

A full-time Communications Coordinator - to oversee a communication plan to expand VFN’s visibility and reach to underserved communities throughout Vermont.

A part-time Family Support Consultant - Mental Health - to provide family centered information, referrals, and assistance to families of children with special health needs, individuals, and professionals individually over the phone and in person, and through trainings and workshops. The Mental Health specialist supports families whose children are experiencing mental health or emotional behavioral issues.
Upcoming Events - Register today!
Free Workshops

You may have seen in media outlets that a new crisis line, 988, has been launched in VT and nationally. What exactly is 988 and how might it impact your family? Please join us as we host a team from the Vermont Department of Mental Health to talk about this new crisis line and what it means for VT individuals and families. Presenters: Samantha Sweet, DMH Director of Mental Health Services, 988 Program Lead and Amy Guidice, Contractor, 988 Planning Coordinator.

In this workshop, adults who support children and youth will learn how to help young people with autism build stronger relationships and be safer from bullying, abuse, and other harm. Participants will practice ways parents & caregivers can teach young people of all abilities how to: protect themselves from bullying, set and respect boundaries, move away from trouble before it grows, protect themselves from teasing and harassment, and get help from adults and persist until they get it. Participants will also learn how to adapt skills based on kids' needs and abilities and how to use the skills to protect children and youth! Presenter: Laura Slesar, Center Director for Kidpower Vermont.

This workshop examines the rights of students with disabilities as they relate to school discipline. The session will include an overview of students’ discipline rights and protections and answer questions like: Who can/can’t be suspended? What is an informal removal? When the school call to say they are sending my child home, what can I do? What is a Manifestation Determination Review and when is it required? When can the district change my child’s placement and what are my options? Presenter: Cammie M Naylor, MSW, Esq., Staff Attorney with the Disability Law Project at Vermont Legal Aid, Inc.

Vermont and other states across the country have been working on addressing the more than 50,000 yearly suspensions and expulsions of 3 and 4-year-olds in preschool settings. This webinar will focus on: Why there is a national focus on the suspension and expulsion of young children, what suspension and expulsion may look like in a preschool setting, how Vermont’s new law regarding suspension and expulsion of children under age 8 impacts children in preschool settings and their families, and current information and resources for families to support their child in inclusive preschool settings.
Presenters: Katie McCarthy, M.Ed., Early Childhood Special Education Coordinator and DEC aRPy Ambassador and Amy Murphy, M.Ed., Early Education Inclusion Coordinator, both from the Early Education Team at the Vermont Agency of Education.

If you are unable to attend, you can still register and we’ll send you a recording of the workshop which you can watch on your own time.

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.
VFN Workshop Topics/Speakers Survey

We want to hear your ideas for our upcoming online workshops. What topics interest you? Are there presenters you would recommend?
Let us know your thoughts.
Contact Us. We Will Listen!
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Contact our Helpline at (802) 876-5315 or info@vtfn.org

600 Blair Park Rd, Ste 240,
Williston, VT 05495