(802) 876-5315
1-800-800-4005
Strong Families. Strong Futures.
Greetings, VFN family and friends!

I am writing this just after the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death, and the 100-year anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. It is sobering to reflect on these important moments in time; to think of how far we have come, how far we have yet to go; how each of us can make a difference in these turbulent times. This has been a year of reflection for VFN with regard to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have been doing internal work as a Board and staff and are making strides in enhancing our organization’s cultural and linguistic responsivity, in the broadest sense. We continue to participate in the robust Vermont Community of Practice in Cultural and Linguistic Competence in Developmental Disabilities and are exploring the creation of learning communities around this topic with our partners, including the Georgetown University National Center for Cultural Competence.

We would love to hear from you as to what you are finding helpful, as families and professionals, to promote meaningful, positive, and lasting change for people with disabilities, especially those from historically marginalized communities, including New American, Black, Abenaki, and Asian American and Pacific Islander. How are you talking about news coverage of social justice and equity issues with children and youth, especially those with disabilities? How can we help one another continue to appreciate difference and capitalize on one another’s strengths, gifts, and abilities, here in Vermont, and beyond?

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” ~Margaret Mead
I look forward to hearing from you! pam.mccarthy@vtfn.org

From the heart,
Pam McCarthy, M.Ed.
CEO/President
We are Moving & will
Reopen our Office on July 1st!
We are not going far and can be found directly across the hall in our new space! We will be re-opening our office on July 1st. Our staff will have a hybrid schedule, but there will be someone present in the office every day. If you want to meet with someone specific, please call to arrange a meeting. Our mailing address will remain the same.
Help us Choose Topics
 for our Annual Conference 2022!
We're excited to start planning our next annual conference for families of children and youth with special health needs or disabilities and the professionals who support them. We are planning to hold an in-person conference in Burlington in the spring of 2022 with possible simulcasting. What topics interest you? Are there presenters you would recommend? Could you please take 2 minutes to give us your thoughts on topics and possible presenters? You will have an option to be entered into a drawing to win one of four $25 Visa gift cards if you give us your contact information. This survey will close on June 21st. If you have any questions or suggestions, please email info@vtfn.org. Thanks so much!
Is Dual Enrollment Appropriate
for my Child on an IEP?
Dual enrollment, under Act 77, allows all Vermont juniors and seniors enrolled in public high school access to two college credit-bearing classes while receiving high school and college credit. The IEP (Individualized Education Program) team (of which the parent and youth are members) decides if dual enrollment is an appropriate learning opportunity. A student must apply and be accepted into the program to receive a voucher for the approved course. Students can receive accommodations to attend college classes and are protected by Section 504 but not IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.)

If you have any questions about your high schooler and dual enrollment, please call VFN Family Support Consultants at 1-802-876-5315. Check out Increasing Access & Equity for All Learners: A Community-School Approach to Dual Enrollment webinar. VFN’s Transition Toolkit for Youth with Disabilities contains information that can help you and your youth transition smoothly from school to adult life.
Family Faculty
Would you like your family story to effect positive change? Consider joining VFN’s Family Faculty program to share your family story with health and education students and professionals.
 
Students and professionals love hearing from families! Around 840 students at University of Vermont and Saint Michael's College heard family stories from July 2020 to March 2021. That’s impressive since we were exclusively on Zoom! We surveyed 80 first-year medical students after one of our Family Faculty events at the University of Vermont Medical Center.
 
  • 95% of students stated they have a clearer understanding of family-centered care after listening to family stories.
  • 99% stated that hearing family stories will help them work better with families of children and youth with disabilities / special health care needs.
  • 99% stated that hearing family stories has positively impacted them and their professional outlook.
 
Interested in joining Family Faculty and making an impact? Would you like help crafting your family story or just need feedback as you think it through? We’re here to help you! Please contact Jenny Norris jenny.norris@vtfn.org.
Administrative Complaint -
Pandemic Considerations
The pandemic began a little over a year ago. If you, the parent, believes that your child, on an IEP (Individualized Education Program) needs compensatory services because they have failed to make educational progress during this period, or if you believe that the school district has failed to provide your child with a timely special education evaluation, you may decide to file an administrative complaint. You have one year from the time which the problem occurred to file a complaint. Vermont Legal Aid has developed two templates to assist parents with filing administrative complaints:

The Administrative Complaint Template for Compensatory Services is to be used if you feel your child is in need of compensatory services to make up educational services and support that they did not receive during the pandemic, and

The Administrative Complaint Template for Special Education Evaluation Delay is to be used if you feel your child was not evaluated for special education in a timely fashion. Please note that initial special education evaluations must be completed within 60 calendar days of when a parent’s written consent is received by the school district. School break, including summer vacation, cannot be used as an acceptable reason under Vermont’s delay in evaluation rule unless the school can document that the student was not made available for the evaluation over the summer vacation months. 
If you have questions about whether or how to file an administrative complaint, please call VFN Family Support Consultants at 1-802-876-5315.
June Virtual Support Training -
Last Chance for Stipend!
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? This free, three-hour Zoom training offers an opportunity for connection, learning, and self-reflection, all from the comfort of your own home. Our next training opportunity is the last chance to take advantage of a $50 parent stipend for training completion! This training will be held Tuesdays June 8th and 15th from 6-7:30 pm (both dates required.)

If you are interested in this opportunity, please fill out our Support Parent Volunteer Application. After you have completed the application, you will receive an email with the Zoom registration links from our Support Parent Training coordinator, Molly. 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 molly.lawney@vtfn.org with your interest, so she can let you know when the future training dates will be. 
News From the Puppets
Wow! What a year it has been! VFN’s Puppets Team wrapped up the school year on May 26. A year ago, we were not sure if programming would happen, what it would look like, or if we could have meaningful interactions with children. We persevered and the school year was impactful for students, teachers AND the PiE staff. Here is the school year by the numbers:
  • Created 2 new programs: Online Kindness Puppet Program for K-4 and a Stress/Anxiety Workshop for middle school
  • Produced 4 videos about Abuse, Anxiety and Kindness
  • Delivered programming to 37 schools
  • Performed 138 times throughout Vermont, New York and Massachusetts for schools, and the Mt. Abraham Mentor Program
  • Performed to 5,639 children and 680 adults for a total of 6,319 people over Zoomone square at a time!
 
From the students:
As the year started, we wondered how well we would connect with students through a computer. We wrote down what children said and now, we have 92 pages of quotes! Students were eager to share, and here are a few snippets just from our last week of shows:

When we asked, “How can you show kindness?” and we heard:
  • Give a thumbs up!
  • Send someone a nice, big picture
  • Ask someone to play
It warmed our hearts when children joined the puppets to say:
  • “Be an Upstander!” in our Kindness show
  • “I got this! I can handle this!” in our Anxiety show

From the Teachers:
  • “I love and believe in the Puppets in Education program. I think you did a fantastic job accommodating during COVID time. Thank You!”
  • “It was refreshing to have "visitors" to interact with right in our classroom! How lucky were we!!!”
  • "I thought the virtual program was great. In-person would be ideal, but this was effective and highly engaging!”
 
If you are interested in scheduling a program for next year, please contact karen.sharpwolf@vtfn.org.
2021 Sibshops
It’s hard to believe that we have made it to June, but our last Sibshop of the 2020-21 school year is approaching! Please join us for a Sibshop on Saturday June 12th from 9-10:30 am for a Sibshop around the theme of Communication. We will play fun communication-oriented games like Sib-Scattergories and 20 questions, and then we will make cards for one another. Pending parent permission (to share addresses), we will snail-mail our cards to a fellow sib!* SibShops are activities for brothers and sisters (age 6+) of children with special health care needs and disabilities. It provides them with a chance to connect with other children who get what it’s like to be a “sib.” We would love more sibs to join us in 2021! Contact molly.lawney@vtfn.org with questions, or to be added to our Sibshop email distribution list. 
*Families who do not feel comfortable sharing their addresses can mail their card to VFN and we can direct mail it to their chosen/assigned “sib.”
 
We are beginning to plan our 2021-2022 Sibshop year and we would love to hear from you about setting and activities for next year. If your child has attended or is interested in attending in the coming year, please take 3 minutes to complete this survey by June 25th. You will be entered into a drawing for a $25 gift card. 
Upcoming Events - Register today!
Free Workshops

June 17 from 11:00 am -12:00 pm - "Home Schooling and Special Education: Supporting Your Child"
Are you homeschooling a child who is eligible for special education? Come learn about how to engage with your school district to ensure you have the information and resources you need to successfully work with your child and access available services. Erin Maguire, Director of Equity & Inclusion for the Essex Westford School District will present on parental rights as well as tips and tools for collaborating with school districts when you are homeschooling a child with a disability. She will also share a series of resources for parents who are looking to develop a comprehensive experience at home for your child. Register here.

July 14 from 1:00 -2:00 pm - "The Keys to Having a Successful Transition to Life After High School for Students with Disabilities - What Parents Need to Know"
John Spinney has worked at the VT Agency of Education for 16 years and he will be coming to us both as a sibling and legal guardian for his two brothers who have Down Syndrome, as well as the VT AOE’s Postsecondary Transition coordinator. John plans to discuss the key items for parents of youth with disabilities to pay attention to in order to foster a positive, meaningful and effective transition to employment, higher education and independent living. Register here.

2021 Annual Conference Recordings and Resources
Link to videos and resources (forms, packets, examples) that presenters shared, can be found on our VFN Conference page. Video recordings of most of the presentations can be found on our VFN YouTube channel under theVFN 2021 Annual Conference” playlist.

In case you missed our last series of workshops, you can find a full list on our VFN website. We are currently planning our next series and hope to get that information out in our next newsletter.

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

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