Sessions Will Be Rescheduled

Update 8/14/20 – Our Conference Planning Committee has decided to be safe and not try to have an in-person event this year. Instead, we will offer a free conference online learning series this fall, Persevering in the Pandemic.

Update 3/20/20 – Our Conference Planning Committee met Tuesday, March 17 and we are looking at rescheduling our conference sessions for late fall 2020 or spring 2021. We will keep you posted as our plans progress. We are grateful for your support and sincerely appreciate your patience as we figure things out. Please contact or (802) 876-5315 x218 if you have any questions or concerns.

Update 3/13/20 – Next week, we will be sending out info about the VFN Conference, which will NOT be happening in person on the scheduled dates. Look for an update next week. We are considering a virtual option, as well as a reschedule.

Our annual conference is for families of children and youth with special health needs or disabilities, and the professionals who support them. The fee (which includes a light meal and a giveaway) is $10 for parents (scholarships available) and $25 for professionals. Everyone is welcome!

  •  To be Rescheduled – Saturday, April 4 from 9 am – 12 noon at the Old North End Community Center Event Hall (20 Allen St.) in Burlington. A big thank you to the JSM Family Room for co-hosting this event! The focus audience will be parents from New American communities; however, as with all of our other conference dates, everyone is welcome to participate! 

New Look

Our conference this year has a whole new look! We’re excited about our new half-day format that will happen in 3 different locations around the state. We’ll have the same presenter and topic at each location. Watch this short YouTube video interview of Sara Forward to learn more. 
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.

Learning Goals

Calling all parents who have a child or youth with a disability or special health needs!  Are you ready to get your brain on board for more flexible, light-hearted parenting?  Want to learn a few tricks for staying focused and calm in the midst of the storm?  Please join us for our annual conference where we will:

  • Re-image relationships based on mutual enjoyment
  • Explore effective strategies for engaging playfully for behavior change
  • Introduce brain development and emotional regulation for us all
  • Explore rural and urban systems of support for parenting in Vermont
  • Examine the teenage brain and motivation for older children, tweens, and teens

Presenter Sara Forward

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.

The Power of Play for All Ages!

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.


We are grateful for the generous support of our conference sponsors.

Platinum Sponsor

Gold Sponsors

Silver Sponsor

Bronze Sponsors