The mission of Vermont Family Network is to empower and support all Vermont children, youth, and families, especially those with disabilities or special health needs. We do this by giving a strong start, lifting family voices, and advancing inclusive communities.

Call us at (802) 876-5315 or toll-free 1-800-800-4005  or email info@vtfn.org.

  • We’re here to listen and help with any needs or concerns you have about you or your child’s health, education, or well-being.
  • We welcome calls from service providers and professionals who support children and their families.
  • Conversations are confidential and services are free. There are no eligibility requirements or forms to fill out.
  • We are parents of children with special health needs or disabilities and understand the challenges and gifts our children offer.
  • Our team has many years of experience. We offer individualized assistance along with practical approaches and tips.
  • When you call, we will:
    • Listen to your needs
    • Ask clarifying questions to get more information about the situation and your priorities
    • Talk about how processes work
    • Point you to helpful information and resources
    • Think and brainstorm together on possible options and next steps
    • Send information we discussed in a follow-up email or by regular mail
  • We are a family organization providing peer support. We don’t tell you what to do. You decide what works best for you and your family. Our hope is that everyone gets the support they need and doesn’t feel alone!
  • Interpreters are available upon request
 

Contact Us

Call us toll-free at (802) 876-5315 / 1-800-800-4005 or email info@vtfn.org.

Monthly E-Newsletter

Sign up for our monthly E-news, which is for families and those who support them. You will find information about upcoming events, resources, and helpful tips.

Facebook Groups

You can follow us on Facebook: Vermont Family Network and Puppets in Education

Closed Facebook Group

If you’re a parent, you can join our closed Facebook group Vermont Families of Children with Special Health Care Needs. In this closed group, families of children with special health care needs, educational needs, and disabilities can engage in discussions, ask for support, and meet members of the community. This group is only for parents, family members, and people in a parenting role. This group is not for professionals or service providers. Please no advertising. 

Would you like to talk with another parent? Learning that your child has a special health need or developmental disability can be isolating and frightening. You don’t need to be alone.

Learn more about our Parent Match program by watching our Parent Match Program Video (22 minutes) and reading our Frequently Asked Questions and Answers. Here is an example of how the program works as told from the perspective of two parents.

Vermont Family Network has been the Vermont chapter of Parent to Parent USA for more than 30 years. We are in the process of breathing new life into our Parent Match Program, and invite you to watch this brief video interview to learn more about how this program is growing and evolving, as well as being adapted to meet the needs of families during the pandemic.

Talking on the phone with a parent who has “been there” can offer a source of empathy, hope, encouragement, and problem solving. We connect families of children with special needs with other families for support and information. Parents should never feel alone!

At no cost to you, we offer 1:1 parent matches in Vermont and nationally through Parent to Parent USA. Parent matches are made based on your self-identified needs such as:

• New diagnosis
• Community resources
• Medical, mental health, and behavioral issues and experiences
• Education or health care systems
• Transitions

Parents have said that this is an invaluable gift. “We may not have answers, but we can hold hands and give each other courage.” Our staff are parents of children with special health needs. We look forward to talking with you!

Printable Flyer

Want to invite Puppets in Education to your school or organization?

Puppets in Education 2021-2022 Virtual Program Information

PiE’s virtual puppet programming for grades K-4 includes a live introduction with a puppet and person, a professionally filmed engaging skit, and a live Q&A with a puppet at the end. Children will have the chance to share their thoughts and ideas with the puppets, just as they always have, but in a new way! They can also email the puppet after the show. We will work with you and your school to meet virtual platform protocols for video and chat tools. Grade 5-8 workshops includes a synchronous and interactive opportunity for students to learn about Anxiety and tools to deal with it.

We are hopeful to return to in-person shows this fall. As of right now. we will be offering the Worry/Anxiety puppet program (K-4), Anxiety/Stress workshop (5-8), and our Bullying Prevention puppet program (K-4). We will be looking at our other programs over the summer to determine which we will be offering and will know more in August. If you foresee needing a specific program in the fall that we haven’t mentioned here, please let us know.

If you are interested in learning more, complete this form to get started and we’ll contact you.

Would you like to learn more about your child’s diagnosis? Does your child have medical needs not covered by your insurance? We may have funding opportunities that can help!

Conference Fund

Parents may apply for a grant to attend a conference related to their child’s diagnosis. Covered expenses may include registration, lodging, and travel costs. The maximum grant is $100 for a conference in Vermont and $200 for a conference that is out-of-state.

Flutie Fund

Families who have children 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 are pleased to announce we have received a $10,000 grant for 2021. There will be a limit of one grant per family for each calendar year. Complete either a fillable application or a printable application and mail or email it to laurel.sanborn@vtfn.org. Funds are made available through the generosity of the Doug Flutie Foundation.

Family Support Fund

Income-eligible families of children aged 0 up to 21, with special health care needs may apply for funding for self-identified respite needs or for assistance with unmet medical expenses.

Respite is a planned break for parents or caregivers, which allows time to spend with other children, to schedule necessary appointments, or to have an opportunity to rest and recharge. A family may initially request up to $600 for respite needs. Joanne.Wechsler@vtfn.org

Medically Necessary funds can be used for things like equipment, medications, travel costs, and therapies. Supporting documentation from the child’s healthcare provider may be required. A family may request up to $1200. MNSF requests: Joanne.Wechsler@vtfn, Betty.Morse@vermont.gov or your child’s CSHN Social Worker.

Families may apply for a total of $1200/family for respite and/or medically necessary expenses combined. For more information, please print or download our Family Support flyer.

Support Group Fund

Parents interested in starting a new support group may apply for a $200 grant to help offset the costs of startup. We will support you in the startup, and will help spread the word.

Grant Funding Resource List

If you have a child with a special health care need or disability and are in need of financial assistance, you may be eligible for one or more of the grants on our Grant Funding Resource List.

Anyone can make a referral to us using this fillable form or printable form. Send us your completed form by email info@vtfn.org or confidential fax (802) 876-6291. Whenever possible, please set your email to “encrypt” when sending this form to protect the family’s personal information. 

You can also make a referral by getting the parent’s permission and their contact information and then calling us at (802) 876-5315 or sending an email to info@vtfn.org. We’ll take it from there!

We look forward to hearing from you!

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, our in-person support has been replaced with virtual support. To set up a virtual meeting, call us at 1-800-800-4005 or (802) 876-5315 or email info@vtfn.org.

  • We are happy to meet with families virtually using Zoom when there are more complex issues to discuss or documents to review.
  • On a limited basis, our staff may be available to attend virtual meetings with you at school or in the community. 
  • If you live in Chittenden County, we can virtually attend a Coordinated Services Planning (CSP)/Act 264) meeting or Local Interagency Team meeting with you in the role of parent representative. If you live in another part of the state, please contact the Vermont Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health to find out who the parent representative is for your area.

Sibshops provide brothers and sisters an opportunity to:

  • Meet other brothers and sisters who “know” what it’s like to be a sibling
  • Have an opportunity to talk about, and to listen to, others’ concerns related to being a sibling of a child with special health needs, in a supportive non-judgmental environment
  • Make new friends, learn new games, do crafts, and share a snack.

Sibshops are for children and youth ages 6+. The program is open to those who are siblings of brothers and sisters who have special health needs. “Special health needs” includes anyone with a medical concern, such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or cystic fibrosis; a developmental disability, such as Down Syndrome, a low IQ, or autism; or any other chronic disability or health condition. Learn more by taking a look at our Sibshop Frequently Asked Questions and Answers. We are excited to resume in-person Sibshops for the 2021-22 school year; please note that masks will be required for all indoor activities.

Sibshops are a collaborative effort of Vermont Family Network and the Vermont Department of Health: Children with Special Health Needs.

Learning that your child has a special health need or disability can be isolating and frightening. You don’t need to be alone. Some parents find it helpful to attend a support group. We have compiled  a list of support groups for your convenience. Our support group list also includes a list of social groups for individuals with disabilities and sources of on-line/phone support. We don’t endorse any particular group. It’s best to call before attending your first meeting.

What can you expect when you attend a parent support group?

  • Meet other parents and family members who have similar experiences
  • Share concerns and celebrate successes
  • Problem solve around current challenges
  • Share practical and helpful suggestions
  • Listen and share coping strategies

A support group facilitator said, “People don’t always need advice. Sometimes all they really need is a hand to hold, an ear to listen, and a heart to understand them.”

If you are a parent and want to start a support group, we would like to help so please give us a call. We can guide you in Organizing and Maintaining a Support Group and add your group to our list.

Please keep in mind that we also offer at no cost to you, 1:1 parent matches in Vermont and nationally through Parent to Parent USA.