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

It is an absolutely beautiful day here at my home office and I am delighted to share that I got to spend my first day back in the Williston office yesterday, fully vaccinated, masked, and SO happy to meet with some of my wonderful co-workers vs. being on Zoom all day! We will be moving our offices across the hall next month and are excited to be starting our “new normal” in a new space as Vermont makes its way into reopening! Stay tuned as we tiptoe into the future!

We were very excited to be chosen recently as the 100 Women of Chittenden County’s giving circle beneficiary and are so grateful to all the folks who supported our nomination with their votes. It is truly wonderful to be recognized in this way, and we look forward to leveraging this funding as we continue to build VFN’s sustainability throughout the state of Vermont.

It gives me great pleasure to share that Robyn Freedner-Maguire of RFM Strategies, LLC, has contracted with VFN for policy advocacy coordination! She will be working with us to expand and support family voice and leadership, especially at tables where decisions are being made that impact families and people with disabilities or special health needs. Nothing about us without us! We continue to work closely with our Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights (VCDR) and Vermont Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance partners as the 2021 legislative session winds down and are looking forward to sharing more about that when the Legislature adjourns.

Stay well and happy as spring continues to green up our brave and beautiful little state!

From the heart,
Pam McCarthy, M.Ed.
3rd Annual Youth Summit
May 20th
Register today!
The 3rd Annual Youth Summit is a free opportunity for young Vermonters. Join other young people for a day of education, empowerment, and equity! This event is organized by the Youth Advocacy Council, a team of youth and young adults with disabilities, ages 14 to 25, who connect with other students in Vermont, advocate for youth resources, and lead while providing community service. There will be presentations on: Self-advocacy, Opportunities after High School, Special Education, and Accessibility-Communication for All

We will hear Nick Vujicic, Christina Irene, and Sarah Vasquez tell us their stories about overcoming adversity. This summit is for youth and young adults, but also for those supporting youth to achieve their hopes and dreams. Click below to register! 
Parent Involvement Survey Coming Soon
The Vermont Agency of Education has contracted with Potsdam Institute for Applied Research to conduct this year’s Parent Involvement Survey to measure how you (the parent) feel about your school’s efforts to create meaningful partnerships with you and how you believe schools can better meet your child’s special education needs. This survey is a requirement of each state by the federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and will be mailed to all families of students with disabilities on June 1, 2021. 

Families should receive an envelope from the Vermont Agency of Education with a SUNY return address. Should you not receive a survey for each of your children receiving special education services by June 21, 2021, please contact Betty Roy betty.roy@vermont.gov. There is a link provided on the survey should you wish to take the survey online, and a phone number should you wish to answer over the phone. ALL options are confidential. The OSEP and the Agency of Education take these surveys seriously.  

If you have any questions, please contact a Vermont Family Network Family Support Consultant at 802-876-5315 or info@vtfn.org
May is Mental Health Month
Self-care is an important part of mental health, and it’s especially important for caregivers of children with special needs. Caregivers are often over-extended and tired and feel isolated; add the pandemic to the mix and there is a strong possibility for burnout and health issues. We need to put oxygen masks on ourselves first, so we can support our loved ones. Life with a special needs child is unpredictable and planning is, well...subjective. So, what can we do? Perhaps asking ourselves “What is one thing I can do today that will bring me joy, so I can recharge and have the energy to support my child?” Do you have one thing that you would be willing to share with other families? If so, please email vickie.crocker@vtfn.org. 

Vermont Leadership Series
Summer School
This VT Leadership Series Summer School training opportunity is for graduates of the VT Leadership Series. In this advanced training, participants will be improve their advocacy skills, network with other advocates and meet national leaders in the disability rights movement. Amy Shollenberger from Action Circles is back and she will teach participants about building relationships for impact and how to create an effective message. Summer School also features special guest speakers including Lydia X.Z. Brown and Lisa Denatale. There will be 3 online training sessions and participants will be assigned to an Action Team that meets twice between sessions, for a total of 5 online meetings. There will be homework, including speaking with a legislator or leader in Vermont government. Leadership, staff and peer mentors will be available to help you with assignments. Participants are expected to attend all 3 dates below:
·        Session 1: Building Relationships for Impact
Tuesday, June 1, 12:30 to 2:45 p.m.
·        Session 2: Creating an Effective Message
Tuesday, July 27, 12:30 to 2:45 p.m.
·        Session 3: Planning my Next Steps
Tuesday August 17, 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.
Summer School is free and slots are limited. There is a short application to complete and return to joanne.wechsler@vtfn.org. The deadline to apply is May 22, 2021.
News from the Puppets
The VFN Puppet Team has reached more than 5,000 students so far this year! One by one, Zoom square by Zoom square, we have had important conversations with children throughout Vermont, New York and even Massachusetts. The majority of our programs recently have been about Worry/Stress/Anxiety. As much as we miss the in-person programs, we find that the “chat” option on Zoom is allowing so many children to say what is on their minds with added privacy. This is a snapshot of what we received on chat just this week:

What do kids worry about?
I worry about bees.
I think kids worry about being sick & not seeing their friends. Or maybe worrying about moving to a new school.
Scared about getting a bad grade on a test.

My worry is like a...
My worry feels like a canyon that is caving in.
My worry looks like a big monster trying to eat me.
Mine is Fluffy but mean.
When worry feels big...
I go outside and sit in the sun when it is sunny out.
To get away from my worry. I feel like I’m a really strong wolf and the monster gets scared.
When I am worried I can talk to...
Our teachers.
I can talk to my mom, my dad, or my dogs. My dogs comfort me a lot and they understand human feelings a bit.
My grandmother.
We are now booking for the fall of 2021. If you are a school that would like to use Recovery Funds to pay for mental health programming, please contact karen.sharpwolf@vtfn.org.
Last Two Virtual Sibshops of 2021!
It has been a fun and exciting year of virtual Sibshop activities! With ice breaker games, touring Ben & Jerry’s, a virtual Paint & Sip with Burlington Paint & Sip Studios, and more, VFN has certainly risen to the challenge of adapting to a virtual world. We will be finishing out the 2020-21 school year with two more virtual Sibshops and we hope your kiddos will join us! 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.”

Saturday May 15th – Express Yourself! 9-10:00 am: This month, sibs will have a chance to engage in emotional self-expression with activities like Feelings Charades, Follow-the-Leader, and Draw-Your-Feelings. We’ll follow this up with a Sibchat around Self-Expression: How do you show others what you are feeling? Does it change based on who you are with? How do your family members express their emotions and how is this the same or different from your own tactics?

Saturday June 12th – Activity TBA 9-10:00 am: After careful consideration, we have decided to continue our last Sibshop for the year in the virtual format. We are still working on developing the activity, but rest assured, it will be Sib-tastic!
Contact molly.lawney@vtfn.org with questions, to sign up, or to be added to our Sibshop email distribution list. 
Flutie Funding Still Available
Families who have children (from birth to age 22) with an autism diagnosis may request up to $200 for needed equipment, respite, camp, therapies, emergency childcare, or to attend a conference related to their child's diagnosis. We encourage families from rural areas (e.g. Bennington, Essex, Orleans and Windham counties) to apply. First time applicants will be prioritized for receiving a grant. One grant per household. 

This funding has been awarded to VFN through The Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism. Please visit our website to complete an application. If you have questions or need support in completing an application, please email laurel.sanborn@vtfn.org or call 802-876-5315.
Support Parents Needed!
Last call to take advantage of our $50 Trained Support Parent stipend! VFN continues to offer virtual Support Parent Trainings for parents who are ready to give back and support other families. Our next training opportunity will be Tuesdays June 8th and 15th, from 6-7:30pm; we will continue offering Support Parent Trainings every other month, but this is the last training for which we are offering a stipend. Join us in this Zoom training to learn, self-reflect, and connect with other parents, all from the comfort of your own home. While we welcome all parents of children with special needs or disabilities to become trained Support Parents, we are specifically hoping to recruit more fathers/male Support Parents, parents from rural towns, and parents of children with Mental Health diagnoses. If you are interested, please fill out our Support Parent Volunteer Application. Questions? Email molly.lawney@vtfn.org
Upcoming Events - Register today!
Storytelling Workshops

Would you like to share your family story? Want to craft that story into a compelling narrative that affects positive change? Consider coming to a free VFN workshop with the amazing local storyteller, Susanne Schmidt.
May 25 from 6:00-7:30pm - "Storytelling Open Workshop" 
In this 1.5-hour virtual workshop participants will see the skills of first-person narrative in action and gain the tools needed to structure and tell powerful stories of their own. This workshop is designed for everyone, whether you want to tell your story at the State House or just to close friends. It is open to all families and community partners. Join us as we lift up and celebrate family voices! Register here. For questions contact jenny.norris@vtfn.org.

June 1 from 6:00-8:00pm - "Storytelling Workshop for Family Faculty" 
If you are a member of VFN’s Family Faculty and have taken the first Storytelling Open Workshop training on May 25th, we invite you to dive deeper into storytelling with a 2-hour follow-up workshop exclusively for VFN’s Family Faculty with Susanne Schmidt. Together we’ll consider the tenets of family-centered care and explore how to supercharge our true stories for most impact! Participants will have access to coaching and guidance as they craft or tweak their family stories to share with health and education students and professionals. Join this safe space as we connect through storytelling! Register here. (Family Faculty only please). For questions or if you are interested in joining FamilyFaculty contact jenny.norris@vtfn.org

Other Workshops

June 2 from 10:00-11:00am - "Children’s Personal Care Services Webinar"
Join us as Adam Poulin, Program Administrator for Children With Special Health Needs with the Vermont Department of Health, provides an overview of Children’s Personal Care Services (CPCS) in Vermont. Participants will learn about how eligibility is determined, what the process is for applying, the mechanics of self-direction, and what information you should have at the ready when completing the application. Register here. If you’d like to submit questions ahead of time, please email Jamie.rainville@vtfn.org.

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.
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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