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Dear VFN family and friends,
We continue to serve families virtually throughout the state, and are constantly amazed by the resilience and creativity of families as we all try to navigate the “new normal” of Covid-19 and the state’s slow reopening. We hope that you and your loved ones are well as summer begins, and wish you a happy Father’s Day this Sunday.
I need to share some difficult news. After more than 30 years, Vermont Family Network will no longer be providing Children’s Integrated Services Early Intervention (CIS-EI) services and supports to infants and toddlers and their families in Chittenden County, effective September 1st, 2020. We notified families we serve this week and are doing everything we can to ensure that they will have a smooth transition to their new CIS-EI provider. Our hearts are heavy as we navigate this significant change with our families, and in our organization.
VFN’s Early Intervention program has been a unique and well-regarded part of VFN’s family-to-family support, information and connection for a very long time. Our Family Resource Coordinators (FRCs), skilled and caring individuals with personal experience navigating the system of care for their own children with special health needs/disabilities, have been a gold standard of parent-to-parent service coordination. Our Developmental Educators, whose expertise is early childhood special education, have been successfully paired with the FRCs as “dynamic duos” serving families in close partnership with other CIS providers throughout Chittenden County. We cannot thank them enough for all they have done—and continue to do—to provide excellent CIS-EI services in Chittenden County.
So, why the big change? Over the last year or so, Vermont’s Agency of Human Services has been going through the process of payment reform which includes the funding for Children’s Integrated Services (CIS) throughout Vermont. Through this process, we were informed that Chittenden County would receive a decrease in funding. To ensure that all CIS services could continue with the funding cuts, the Chittenden County CIS contractor, the Howard Center, put all the CIS subcontracts (for Early Intervention, Specialized Child Care, and Strong Families Vermont Nursing and Family Support Home Visiting) out to bid. VFN submitted a proposal for the Early Intervention subcontract, one that VFN has held since the days of the Family, Infant, and Toddler Project. We have been informed by the Howard Center that we were not the successful bidder and that the new CIS Early Intervention subcontract will be awarded to our sister CIS provider in Franklin & Grand Isle counties, Northwestern Counseling and Support Services (NCSS). As of September 1st, 2020, NCSS will begin providing the Early Intervention services for the Chittenden region, collaborating with the other CIS subcontractors in Chittenden County. NCSS will build on the successful CIS EI services they already provide in the communities of northwestern Vermont. VFN’s dedicated CIS-EI providers will work closely with NCSS and the Howard Center in the coming few months to provide a smooth transition for all children and families.
As we prepare for this change, we are more committed than ever to our mission as a statewide organization that empowers and supports all Vermont families of children with disabilities and special health needs. As Vermont’s federally designated Family-to-Family Health Information Center and Parent Training and Information Center, as well as the state’s national affiliate of Family Voices and Parent to Parent, and the home of New England’s one-of-a kind Puppets in Education program, we are here for families across the span of their children’s growth and development. We continue to provide statewide support, information, and connection for families, and to promote strong family/professional/community partnerships for all children. It goes without saying, VFN remains a significant resource to our transitioning CIS-EI families in Chittenden, should they wish to utilize any of our other supports and services, now, or in the future.
From the heart,
Pam McCarthy, M.Ed.