Greetings to our VFN Family and Friends.

In Vermont, families with children and youth in need of specialized care often face a daunting challenge: navigating the complex landscape of Home-Based Community Services (HCBS) and Medicaid. Despite these resources being designed to provide crucial support, many families remain unaware of their availability and how to access them effectively. It can be incredibly challenging and time-consuming to navigate the system, and Vermont Family Network is always positioned to help!

HCBS encompasses a wide range of services tailored to meet the unique needs of children and youth with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or behavioral health issues, allowing them to receive care in the comfort of their homes and communities. From skilled nursing to behavioral therapy, these services play a vital role in improving the quality of life for young individuals and alleviating the strain on families.

However, despite the importance of HCBS, awareness among families remains low. Many parents are unaware of the eligibility criteria for Medicaid, which serves as the primary funding source for these services. Parents report feeling overwhelmed by the process and the paperwork. Income guidelines are confusing. The rules are tough to comprehend. As a result, they may struggle to access the support their children desperately need.

Increasing family awareness of HCBS and Medicaid is essential for ensuring that all children and youth receive the care they require. One effective approach is through targeted outreach and education initiatives. Community organizations, healthcare providers, and schools can play a crucial role in disseminating information about available services and guiding families through the application process. VFN is dedicated to providing this support.

Moreover, efforts to simplify the enrollment process and eliminate bureaucratic barriers are also necessary. Reducing paperwork and streamlining eligibility requirements can make it easier for families to access Medicaid and HCBS, ensuring that no child falls through the cracks due to administrative hurdles. VFN follows Medicaid changes and dialogue as part of its Policy & Advocacy work.

In addition to increasing awareness, it is essential to address the stigma surrounding HCBS and Medicaid. Some families may feel ashamed or embarrassed to seek assistance, fearing judgment from others. By fostering a supportive and non-judgmental environment, communities can help families feel more comfortable accessing the services they need. Furthermore, ongoing support and guidance are crucial for families navigating the complexities of HCBS and Medicaid. Case managers and support coordinators can serve as valuable allies, offering assistance with everything from selecting the right services to advocating for their child’s needs.

By improving family awareness of Home-Based Community Services and Medicaid for children and youth, Vermont can ensure that every child receives the care and support they need to thrive. Through targeted outreach, simplified enrollment processes, and destigmatization efforts, we can bridge the gap and create a more inclusive and supportive community for all. That’s why VFN has partnered with the Agency of Human Services through a grant on HCBS Workforce Development and is educating HCBS providers about the family perspective and ways to engage families in the process. VFN is generating professional learning opportunities and resource documents for HCBS providers that improve a more informed workforce working with families, children, and youth who experience disabilities and special health needs.

VFN is committed to this project because of our understanding of the family experience and our desire to be a part of the solution of better engagement and understanding between families and providers. With improved satisfaction of experiences and engagement, providers are more likely to find satisfaction in their professions, leading to increased retention and improved outcomes. VFN will promote existing trainings and/or develop more targeted professional learning through new trainings and expand its Family Faculty panel series to enhance perspective-taking and promote family engagement and an understanding of what families experience as they navigate through the system. We will also be supported through Vermont undergraduate interns and senior-level students, many of whom are pursuing careers in the professions and will serve families with HCBS needs.

Our training will take a variety of forms, including virtual, pre-recorded, and live delivery, based on the medium that is most appropriate for the topic and the training experience for the providers we are serving. Pre-recorded training will be archived in a section for HCBS providers on our website and messaged when available by our Communication Coordinator. Virtual sessions conducted in real time will be offered at different times to accommodate a variety of schedules; these training sessions will be recorded for future use. In-person sessions will be based out of Chittenden/Washington Counties and will be determined based on workforce need and VFN staff availability. Family Faculty panel sessions will be determined by late Spring as we find a fit with providers, locations, and availability of families.

Please stay tuned for more details and announcements about this important partnership or reach out to us for more information by emailing [email protected]. If you are an HCBS provider or organization with multiple HCBS providers and would like to know more about our training offerings, we’d love to hear from you!

From the heart,