February 2016
April Dreaming...
Register Now for April 2's
Family Fun Day

All foster, adoptive and kinship families are invited to a day of support, learning, food and fun! REGISTRATION is now open.

Our third annual Spring Forward will be Saturday, April 2, starting at 9:30 AM, at the new Providence Community Center in Fairfax. The Center is walkable from the Vienna metro station and bus transit; there is plenty of parking as well.

Children age 3 and older will enjoy a morning of supervised activities and games. Nursery care is available.

Adults and older youth will be treated to keynote presentation Garbage Bag Suitcase: A Survivor’s Guide to the Long Term Impact on Children in Care by author and former foster youth Ms. Shenandoah Chefalo. Following the keynote, youth and young adults will join Ms. Chefalo for a workshop just for them. Parents, caregivers and professionals particpate in a listening session with staff from Virginia Department of Education.

Families enjoy lunch together. A fun fair with games, prizes, face painting, balloon creations, and arts and crafts concludes the day. Cost is only $5 per person, age 3 and up. LEARN MORE and REGISTER HERE.

Kinship Treatment Foster Care Summit

The Foster Family-based Treatment Association Virginia Chapter (FFTA-VA) applied for a grant from the FFTA National to host a statewide summit on March 30 and 31. The Summit is designed to encourage awarenss of kinship treatment foster care and increase public-private partnerships to develop a plan that will assist Virginia in implementing a strategy that will support kin as treatment foster parents.

Kinship Treatment Foster Care Summit will be held at SunTrust Center, 919 E. Main St., Richmond, Virginia 23219. Registration is free for this event.

Professional Workshop:
Trauma-Informed Coaching
Register now for our April 1 half-day training for social work, counseling, education, and other professionals. Professional coach and Garbage Bag Suitcase author Shenandoah Chefalo will guide participants through trauma-informed coaching principles & techniques, informed by her personal experiences in foster care.

Thanks to our co-sponsors, the
Licensed Professional Counselors of Northern Virginia and the ADHD Resource Group of Northern Virginia.
General Assembly:
Bills that Impact Children and Families

The Virginia General Assembly is in session in Richmond. Action is being considered on several topics that could impact children and families. We encourage parents, caregivers, professionals and others connected to foster care, adoption and kinship care to learn more and share their thoughts and experiences with state Delegates and Senators.

Fostering Futures is working to assure critical housing and other supports for young adults age 18-21 in foster care. LEARN MORE about Fostering Futures.

Several bills are working to address the disproportionate impact of school discipline practices on students with disabilities and other groups. LEARN MORE about the bills on school climate and discipline.

Improved mental health services is the focus of a number of bills and executive efforts. LEARN MORE about the efforts to address mental health care across the state.

Want to learn more? Our friends at FACES of Virginia Families post regular adovacy updates!

How To Know if a Child has Autism

Q: My son's second grade teacher suggested that he might have autism. He was adopted internationally at age 3 and we have very few medical records. He has trouble making friends now and his communication is delayed, but we thought all that was because of his early experiences in group care. How can we know if he has autism?

A: Great question! Because parents and caregivers may have limited knowledge about their children's early experiences, it can be really hard to distinguish developmental delays from disabilities.

"Autism" is one of the categories under which a child may be eligible for special education.

Virginia special education regulations say that Autism "
means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped

movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.
Autism does not apply if a child’s educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance. A child who manifests the characteristics of autism after age three could be identified as having autism if the criteria in this definition are satisfied" (8VAC20-81-10).

Diagnosis of autism or autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is based largely on behavioral, communication and other developmental characteristics, making it difficult to distinguish from other disorders which may cause developmental delays or disabilities.

Great resources on screening and early identification of autism are available at the VCU Autism Center for Excellence. Once identified, children and youth with ASD are best served using evidence-based practices, such as those found at the National Professional Development Center on ASD.

Locally, organizations such as Parents of Autistic Children and the Autism Society of Northern Virginia offer great supports to families raising children and youth with autism.

Feel the Love of New Information with Local Trainings & Events

February is a great time to connect with these great trainings and events from FFF and our partners and friends!

February 17- Creating Career Pathways for Youth with Mental Health Conditions webcast

February 18 - Futures Planning: Housing workshop, by The Arc of Loudoun, Leesburg

February 20 -
Fairfax County Post Adoption focus group, Fairfax

February 20-21 - Advanced Youth Leadership Training hosted by NAMI's Virginia Family Network, Richmond

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

February 27 - Arlington Public Schools Infant and Preschoo Resource Fair, Arlington

March 4 Mental Health and Planning for Your Child’s Independence, hosted by The Arc of Northern Virginia, Falls Church

April 1 - Helping Those Who Hurt Without Harming: Trauma Informed Approaches for Coaching Children & Families professional workshop, at FFF in Fairfax.

April 2- Spring Forward Family Fun Fair, hosted by FFF at Providence Community Center, Fairfax

April 9 - Fairfax County Public Schools Special Education Conference, Alexandria

April 9 - Family and Youth Leadership Summit, hosted by NAMI of Virginia, Richmond

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

May 7- Beyond Consequences LIVE,

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


Beyond Consquences LIVE coming to Northern Virginia

After you read the book club selection this month, come and hear the author Heather Forbes, May 7 in Burke. More HERE .
Fabulous Special Needs Family Resources!

SCAN of Northern Virginia offers a wide range of fact sheets on many family, children, and youth topics. A set of four sheets focus on parenting children with special needs:

We share these and other fabulous finds of resources of interest to formed families on our FFF 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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