December 2015
Happy Holidays!
Our Gifts to You...

Tis the season... to be busy! This time of year is often full of activity. For some formed families, the joy and peace of the season can be tempered by chaos and uncertainty. Children and youth in our care may be reminded of holidays past with birth families or spent in other homes. Time away from school, with less structured and predictable schedules can feed anxiety and make for challenging behaviors.

Please know you are not alone in coping with the challenges of holiday-time. We encourage you to enjoy some of the gifts Formed Families Forward offers now and all year long:
  • Download a copy of our most recent edition of the Formed Families Resource Directory. Your family may discover a new provider or service in this comprehensive listing of programs, activities and organizations.
  • Youth and youth adults and their parents and caregivers can join us for Stronger Together peer support groups two Tuesday evenings a month. Any youth or young adult, age 14-22, who has lived experience with mental health, special education, social services or other systems are welcome. The concurrent parent and caregiver group tackles many parenting issues. Groups are free and we serve a light dinner!
  • Get some help looking ahead when you join us on January 14 for "Dude, Where's My Transition Plan?" evening workshop. Participants receive a youth-friendly workbook; we will use activtities to get youth and parents/caregivers thinking about transitions through middle and high school and on to work, employment and independent living.
  • And don't forget the gift of a day of family fun! Mark your calendars for Saturday, April 2 for our annual Spring Forward family fun fair at Providence Community Center, near Vienna metro. Keynote foster care "survivor" Ms. Shenandoah Chefalo will share her story and her insights into survival and solutions. Registration opens in January.
OUR wish list!

While we love to give, Formed Families Forward also has our own wish list this holiday! Over the past year, we have helped hundreds of foster, adoptive and kinship families and professionals address education concerns, advocate for the children and youth in their care, and better navigate many service systems. Formed Families Forward provides consultations on individual situations, and offers on-site and webinar trainings on topics such as managing behavior, graduation requirements, and coping with caregiver stress and burnout. These and other services such as our Stronger Together peer support groups are offered free of charge!

So, how can you support our work? Let us count the ways!

  1. Contribute financially - make a tax deductible contribution HERE!
  2. Help guide the organization by considering serving on our Board of Directors. Learn more and complete the interest application HERE.
  3. Consider other ways to raise awareness and support. Your personal and business connections can be helpful to our fundraisng and outreach efforts. Contact us HERE!
  4. Donations of time and talent! If you have a special skill or some extra time, we can put you to work! We can use help with social media, marketing, event planning, and exihibiting at meetings and conferences, to name a few. Contact us HERE.
Raising Young Children?
Think Inclusion!

The US Departments of Education and Health and Human Services invite you to join them via Google Hangout for a discussion about inclusion in early childhood programs and why it matters to States, early childhood programs, families, and young children with and without disabilities.

Inclusion in Early Childhood Programs
is a series of webinars on the research, practice, and public awareness of inclusion in early childhood programs, to be held over the next several months.

Watch the kick-off live on YouTube on Thursday, December 17 at 3:30pm. Click here to join the event.

Kinship Update:

Sarah Smalls, FFF Family Resource Coordinator serves as Virginia's Representative on Generation's United Grandfamilies Advisory Council. On December 3 and 4th; Mrs. Smalls, along with other members of the Advisory Council visited Senate offices to raise awareness and advocate for resources on behalf of grandparents and other relatives raising their kin.

Generations United also celebrated the released their second annual report,
The State of Grandfamilies in America:2015. The report identifies state laws and policies specifically designed to address the barriers and better support the diverse and unique population of grands and other relatives raising children.

In our region, a Northern Virginia Kinship Group, a collaboration of Departments of Social Services in Alexandria city and Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties, hosted its first Kinship Symposium in September and three kinship-specific trainings throughout the region later in fall. Kinship families are encouraged to contact the DSS in their jurisdiction to learn about kinship support opportunities!

Helping Kids Deal with Community Violence

Q: We cannot turn on the TV or radio without hearing about another shooting or violent event. My foster kids witnessed domestic violence and now they have to hear about it constantly from the news and in the neighborhood. How can we help children deal with all these horrific events and the constant threat of terrorist attacks?

A: Yes, it can be really frightening for children (and adults) to hear and see violent images in the media. For children and youth with trauma histories, this may be even more challenging. offers some suggestions for helping parents and caregivers support their children as they face school violence . Suggestions for helping children and youth deal with community violence are HERE and ideas for addressing violence in the news are HERE.

If you want to know even more about the impact of violence and terrorism on children, this Social Policy report provides a detailed research summary.

If you child is having academic or behavioral problems that may be related to anxiety and fear about violence, talk with teachers and school-based clinical professionals such as counselors, social workers or school psychologists. Share suggestions of strategies that you have found helpful such as breaking tasks down, taking breaks, and supporting students to know their needs and self-advocate.

Training & Events in

Break open those new calendars and add some of these great events hosted by FFF and our friends and partner organizations:

January 7 and 26- Webinar series on supported employment for young adults with serious mental health conditions. Hosted by the Transitions RTC.

January 8 - Department of Motor Vehicles day
at the Arc of Northern Virginia, Falls Church. Contact Megan Rusciano, Beneficiary Advocate for an appointment.

January 14
- Dude, Where's My Transition Plan? workshop for teens and parents/ caregivers, Fairfax.

January 30-31 - Advanced Youth Leadership Training hosted by NAMI's Virginia Family Network, at FFF offices!

February 24 -
Mindfulness Strategies for Increasing Calm and Focus in the New Year webinar hosted by FFF, 7 PM.


Put your Hair In Air for Foster Care!

Professional photographer and foster advocate Joan Brady asks us to raise awareness of children and youth waiting in foster care by putting our Hair In Air. Learn more HERE.

Best wishes from Formed Families Forward for a safe, peaceful and joyous season and new year!

We look forward to connecting, supporting, learning and growing together in 2016. As always, we provide the latest updates for the foster, adoption, and kinship community at our Facebook page. LIKE us!

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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