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2020 Vermont Family Network Annual Conference

For families of children and youth with special health needs or disabilities, and the professionals who support them.  

Our annual conference next year will have a whole new look! We’re excited about our new half-day format that will happen in 4 different locations around the state. We’ll have the same presenter and topic at each location.
We hope to reach more families of children and youth with disabilities or special health needs and the professionals who support them especially those who may have never had an opportunity to attend in the past.

Dates / Locations

  • Saturday, March 21, 2020 from 10 am – 2 pm at a location to be determined in Springfield, VT
  • Tuesday, March 31, 2020 from 4 pm – 8 pm at the Eastside Restaurant in Newport, VT
  • Thursday, April 2, 2020 from 8:30 am – 1 pm at the Delta Hotel (formerly Trader Duke’s) in South Burlington, VT
  • Saturday, April 4, 2020 (date/time/location to be determined) in Burlington, VT. The focus audience will be parents from New American communities. As with all of our other conference dates, everyone is welcome to participate!

Presenter Bio

Photo of Sara Forward, 2020 Annual Conference Presenter

Sara Forward, LICSW, is a proud Vermont transplant by way of Kentucky, Michigan, and Louisiana. In addition to being a mom, Sara has worked with children and families as a mental health consultant, clinician, classroom teacher, and professional coach and trainer. Her interests include supporting families in transforming challenging dynamics through self-reflection and mindfulness training. Her current work with the Child Welfare Training Partnership at the University of Vermont allows her to support family services workers, foster, adoptive, and kinship families around Vermont with training and coaching. Sara’s focus in training is on practical knowledge and strategies for parents and professionals and her presentations draw on her love of reading, travel, live performance, and the joy of playing with children in nature.


Title: The Power of Play: Opening Doors in a Small Town

This interactive presentation will explore the experience of parenting in our communities big and small, rural and urban and will offer parents strategies for seeking out and expanding the circles of support for their children and families through identifying open doors and entry points. Through the lens of play and gentle humor, we will re-imagine relationships based in mutual enjoyment.  After an introduction to brain development and regulation patterns, we will explore how bodies, brains, and life experience work together to shape a child and family’s capacity for behavior change and healthy growth. We will talk about effective strategies for play and creativity that address behavior challenges and families dynamics that need tweaking. We will also hear voices from our parenting community with a recognition that we are all in this together. Finally, we will explore how young adults play and explore the world.  We will dive into the teenage brain and how we might engage more lightly and joyfully in supporting youth in transitioning to adulthood. Our focus will be on networking, sharing wisdom together, learning through play, and practicing new parenting tools together. 

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