April 2016

April: Autism Awareness!
Get the Facts and
Share Strategies

April brings us a great reason to share great resources for families raising children and youth who have autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism is the fastest growing category under which students can become eligible for special education and related services. About 16,000 preschool through high school students with autism receive special education in Virginia. Here are links to evidence-based information and resources for families raising a child with autism:

We Sprang!
Spring Forward Family Fun Day was a Success

Saturday, April 2 found dozens of happy adoptive, kinship and foster families taking a break from the cold, rainy weather at Formed Families Forward's third annual Spring Forward Family Fun Day.

The event, held at the beautiful new Providence Community Center in Fairfax, included morning activities for the kids, and great speakers for parents, caregivers and older youth. Featured Keynote presentation by Ms. Shenandoah Chefalo, a self-described foster care "survivor" and author of Garbage Bag Suitcase, was telling and inspiring.

Following her presentation and Q & A, parents and caregivers got some face time with three leaders from the Virginia Department of Education. Patricia Popp, Patricia Haymes, and Hank Millward shared the latest news from VDOE and then responded to questions and concerns from the audience. Lunch brought families back together and a fun fair followed.

The day was a welcome break for our families, made possible by a team of fabulous volunteers from George Mason University including our spring intern Nicole Azmoude, Hearty thanks to our co-sponsors NewFound Families (formerly FACES of Virginia Families), PEATC, and our generous host, Providence Community Center, part of Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services.

A great day for families. We look forward to our 4th annual Spring Forward!
Denali says 'PicMe'!

This month, the PicMe project features Denali, a teen currently in foster care in the DC metropolitan area who is looking for an adoptive home. Denali is 13, loves strawberry cupcakes and basketball.

Learn more about Denali HERE!

The purpose of the PicMe Project is to help spread the word about teens like Denali who are hoping to be adopted.The PicMe Project is run by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments & is a partnership with professional photographer Joan Brady. Share the video and help spread the word!
Rethinking School Discipline:
Impact on Students with Disabilities and of Color

Q: I am in an informal support group of other adoptive moms. Most of us have teenagers, and many are not white. It seems like a lot of our kids are getting in trouble in their middle and high schools for behaviors that are related to their special needs, like ADHD and processing problems. And several kids have been suspended which seems to make the problems even worse. What can parents do to help schools understand and address our kids' behaviors, before they get suspended or worse?

A. This is a great question about a common problem for formed families raising children and youth with disabilities that impact behavior. Data shows that children and youth with disabilities, those of color, and those in foster care receive disproportionately harsher discipline in schools.

Recently the US Department of Education has addressed these issues head-on with a set of videos about Rethinking Discipline in classrooms, schools and districts. These videos are good conversation starters for parents, caregivers and school staff.

In addition, the US Department of Education has proposed a new rule to promote equity for students with disabilities, particularly students of color. Parents and caregivers are invited to learn more about this proposed new 'disproportionality' Rule and comment on it by May 16. The full proposed Rule can be found
HERE, and a video explaining the Rule can be watched HERE.

A number of organizations have taken helped raise awareness of the overuse of harsh school discipline with children of color and who have disabilities. Learn more from the American Youth Policy Forum and the UCLA Center on Mental Health in the Schools.

So what can be done? First, if you are in the northern Virginia area, consider attending the American Bar Association's forum on
Rethinking School Discipline: Disability Law and the Case for Reform on April 19 in Washington, DC.

Also, learn more about positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS). Schools implementing proven strategies and practices consistent with a PBIS approach can improve school climate for all students and reduce disciplinary issues. Learn more about PBIS and how it can make schools safer and stronger HERE.

Grab the Sunscreen and Shades...
Get Ready for Summer 2016

It's hard to believe that summer. break is only two months away.

Join family fun and kinship expert Dr. Kathy Dial for a free webinar, Fun Ahead: Creating Your Family's Summer Bucket List on May 5.

Need a summer camp experience for your child? Check our compilation of summer camp listings and questions to ask when considering a camp for your child with special needs, HERE.
Showers of Trainings & Events

Don't miss these events from FFF and our
partners and friends....

April 27 & April 28 - Becoming an Active Member of Your Child's IEP Team. Arlington Public Schools Parent Resource Center, Arlington

April 29
- Understanding Mood Dysregulation in Students with ASD, Fairfax County Public Schools Parent Resource Center, Dunn Loring

May 3- Tools for School: College Accommodations for Students with Psychiatric Disabilities free webinar from the Transitions RTC

May 5 - Fun Ahead: Creating Your Family's Summer Bucket List webinar hosted by FFF

May 7- Beyond Consequences LIVE,

May 9 - Understanding the IEP Process. Alexandria City Public Schools Family Resource Center, Alexandria

May 10 - Waiver Redesign: What Does This Mean For Me? sponsored by The Arc of Greater Prince William and FFF, Woodbridge

May 10-11 - 2016 Special Education Advocacy Symposium, hosted by PEATC, Staunton. Apply now!

May 11- Developing Play Skills and Communication Through Play,
Loudoun County Public Schools, Ashburn

May 13-15- Project LIFE Statewide Conference for Youth,

May 14- Foster Walk Northern Virginia. Join Project LIFE for this great event that builds awareness of child abuse, its lifelong effects, and inspiration for healing. Springfield.

June 3-
NAMI Northern Virginia's 2nd annual SummerFest! for Teens, Young Adults and Families Contact NAMI to learn more.


Beyond Consquences LIVE coming to Northern Virginia

National adoption and attachment expert Heather Forbes is coming to northern Va - May 7 in Burke. More HERE.

Medicaid Waiver Redesign is Here.

We have you covered!

Jois us for an information night on May 10 in Woodbridge; click image below for the flyer. Childcare available and registration is required.

Don't Miss A Thing!

We post a little something special every day just for formed families and professionals who care about adoption, foster care and kinship care. Get the latest news on upcoming events around the regions on our FFF Facebook page.
LIKE us!

Our Stronger Together peer support groups for youth and young adults age 14- 22 and for parents and caregivers will continue through May, meeting twice a month. Enrollment for our groups is open, so learn more HERE.

Formed Families Forward provides training and support to northern Virginia families formed through adoption, foster care and kinship care who are raising children and youth with special education needs. We also serve professionals who work with our families. Consultations and most trainings are free of charge to parents and caregivers raising children and youth with special needs.

Moving Formed Families to Better Outcomes

Reach us at, or call (703) 539-2904.

Kelly Henderson, Ph.D., Executive Director
This project is supported in part by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). Opinions expressed herein are those of the project and do not necessarily represent the position of the U.S. Department of Education.
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