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. Our vision is that all Vermont children and youth reach their full potential. The values which guide our work are: family-centered, respect, collaboration, making a difference, and accessibility.
In the 1980s, three mothers of children with special needs were each determined to create nurturing communities for families and their children. While their visions had some common threads, they felt each one’s general mission was different enough to justify the need for three different organizations, and each one moved forward to receive its 501c3 non-profit designation.
Nancy Divenere founded Parent to Parent of Vermont, and envisioned connecting families so that no one would feel alone. Through the concepts of Support Parents and partnering with providers for family-centered care, Parent to Parent of Vermont connected families of children with special needs all over the state of Vermont.
Connie Curtin recognized the need for inclusionary practices and expertise in Special Education as well as parent/professional partnering on IEP and 504 Plan teams in schools. She founded the Vermont Parent Information Center (VPIC) which offered assistance for families of children with disabilities advocating for the academic and social needs of their children.
Mary K. Dennison, along with Deb Lyons, saw an opportunity to utilize the art-form of puppetry as a way to engage children in thoughtful conversations about personal safety, individual differences, and social inclusion. They founded Champlain Valley Kids on the Block and trained a core of volunteer puppeteers to perform interactive puppet shows in Chittenden County schools. Later, as their geographical outreach expanded, they became Kids on the Block-Vermont. Then in 2009, with the addition of the Friend 2 Friend program on autism, they became Puppets in Education (PiE) to fully reflect the scope of their work.
In 2008, Parent to Parent and VPIC, having worked with many of the same families over the years, recognized the value of streamlining processes for families. The two organizations decided to merge and became Vermont Family Network (VFN). VFN could now support a family from birth through transition to adulthood via early intervention services, parent connections and support, and expertise in education laws and policies.
In 2017, Puppets in Education joined the “family” by becoming a program of Vermont Family Network. Around the same time they expanded their reach beyond the borders of Vermont and have since been presenting to children and adults throughout NY and New England.
As we grow, Vermont Family Network continues to advance inclusion among the greater community, supporting children and families where they live and go to school. There is no doubt that their greater visions have been realized. Vermont Family Network will continue our dedicated efforts to meet the needs of families all over the state, and beyond!