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On April 17, local nonprofit Formed Families Forward will host their seventh annual Spring Forward event, a day for the families that they serve to connect and bond over their shared experiences.

Formed Families Forward was formed in 2011 by a group of moms involved with the adoption, foster care, or kinship of children with special needs. Through training, webinars, and classes, the organization supports formed families all over Nova.

The organization uses the term ‘formed families’ to include those brought together through adoption, the foster care system, or kinship, which is when a family member becomes the primary caregiver to a child that is not their own.

Kelly Henderson has a PhD in special education, but she also has years of lived experience as a mother of special needs children, some of whom are adopted.

“The biggest obstacles are misinformation or a lack of information,” Henderson says. “They’re given too little information when they take on the role of caregiver, and are unprepared for the challenges and trauma the kids have been through. The nature of the challenge within the families either contributes to special needs or is impacted initially to special needs. Children with special needs and disabilities are neglected and abused at much higher rates than other children.”

The most commonly identified disability for children in foster care and kinship care is emotional disturbance, but intellectual, learning, and developmental disabilities are also quite common. As a result, families involved with foster or kinship care have a myriad of different needs from ‘traditional’ families. This might include caregivers navigating the special education system or disability advocacy world. This is where Formed Families Forward and their expert staff can help.

Formed Families Forward provides families with many different avenues of support. Their website, for one, functions as a robust resource director, which includes a guide to private providers, agencies, and support groups in the area. They also do training and webinars, as well as self-paced online classes that allows caregivers to learn more about special education and disability basics. Additionally, they offer consultations, and work with parents, special education teachers, and case workers. Plus, they offer peer support groups to youths in adoption, foster care, or kinship care as well as support groups for adults.

Their Spring Forward event is an annual occasion for families to connect with one another over their shared experiences in raising children with special needs. This year, the event will be a seventy five minute virtual event where caregivers can process challenges, children 5-12 will be led in virtual activities, and teens will have a motivational speaker.

The organization is a 501c3 non profit organization and they accept donations year round in order to continue providing these free services to families in need. Tax deductible donations can be made at formedfamiliesforward.org/donate/.

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