Dear VFN family and friends,
 
It seems surreal to think that we have been working from home for almost two months now. We miss seeing you all in person, and hope that you and your families are well. VFN is continuing to serve families in many different ways, as Family Support Consultant Molly Lawney explains in this short video. In collaboration with some of our Vermont Leadership Series graduates and the Vermont Developmental Disabilities Council, we were pleased to host a virtual Town Hall with the VT Department for Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living on April 21 so the nearly 200 participants could learn about the Covid-19 Emergency Supports for Family Caregivers. We continue to share updates on temporary changes to the Children’s Personal Care Services Program since hosting a Town Hall on April 10 with family leaders and the Vermont Department of Health’s Children with Special Health Needs. Our Family Support staff have launched a virtual support group for parents called Parent’s Chat & Share and have hosted two meetings so far. We love chatting and laughing with other parents in this informal get-together. Staying connected during this time of “physical distancing” helps keep everyone’s spirits up!
 
You can always contact us toll-free at 1-800-800-4005/(802) 876-5315 or email info@vtfn.org. No matter where we are working from, you can depend on us for information, support, and connection. You can also follow us on Facebook. If you are a parent or are in a parenting role, you are invited to join our closed Facebook group, Vermont Families of Children with Special Health Care Needs. The group’s 540 members share ideas, family-to-family, and offer knowledgeable support. They know first-hand what it’s like to parent a child with special health needs or a disability. They understand how hard self-care can be in times like these, never mind trying to “put on our own oxygen mask first.” While self-care looks different for different people, taking care of our mental health and well-being is paramount.
 
Since 1949, the month of May has been observed as Mental Health month. Keeping children safe is essential to their mental and physical health. In collaboration with our Puppets in Education, the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital has put together this 9-minute video for children to learn what to do if they are experiencing abuse at home. Dr. Lewis First, Chief of Pediatrics at the UVM Children’s Hospital offers advice to children. The video, along with a letter to educators was distributed to all Vermont schools.
 
The month of May also brings spring flowers, warmer weather, and thoughts of graduation. It’s usually a time of hopes and dreams about all that lies ahead, especially for young people and their families. In that spirit, you are cordially invited to a “virtual” Vermont Youth Summit with dynamic keynote speaker Hasan Davis! This free event was organized by the Youth Advocacy Council and is being hosted by Vermont Family Network and VocRehab Vermont. I’ve been inspired by Hasan’s story as a “Hope Dealer,” and I am sure you will be too! His keynote presentation is on May 28 from 10 am – 11 am. Two identical workshops are offered for youth and young adults on May 28 and June 2 from 2 pm – 3:30 pm. Registration for the keynote and workshops is required. If you have any questions, need help registering, or would like to request a reasonable accommodation, please contact Martha.Frank@vtfn.org or call (802) 876-5315.
 
In closing, this time of being home, working on behalf of other families while caring for my dad, finds me reflecting on how thankful I am for the healthcare professionals who keep him going. This week (May 6-12) is National Nurses Week. The World Health Organization designated 2020 as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife,” to honor the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale, the world’s most famous nurse. So to all the nurses, health care workers, and the many other essential workers, my deepest gratitude for your dedicated service and commitment, especially in these very difficult times.
 
Sending you all our very best, today, and always. Let us know how we can help you. Together, we are indeed Vermont Strong.
 
From the heart,
 
Pam McCarthy, M.Ed.
CEO/President