Spring Forward 2019 Session Descriptions

REGISTRATION for Spring Forward Family Fun Day and Regional Professional Conference can be found HERE.

If you have pre-registered, please complete and bring with you the appropriate FORMS HERE.

This page provides details on the day’s sessions and presenters.

9 – 10 AM Keynote Presentation – Family Strong: Five ways to Fight the Fear, Beat the Burnout, and Stay Focused for the Long Haul by Wendy Besmann

Caring for a young person with emotional, behavioral, developmental, or other special health needs can be overwhelming. Sometimes the situation feels both terrifying and exhausting. How does a family caregiver stay hopeful, positive, and energized for the long haul? Discover five strengthening steps to resilient living that can change the way you cope with immediate crisis and ongoing challenges.

10:15 AM – 1 PM Professional Workshop
Start Here –> Get There: Supporting Families to be their Own Best Advocates, Conquer Chaos & Take Charge workshop (continuation from Keynote session; 4 hours of Social Work CE’s available for additional fee, approved by NASW-VA)

This interactive workshop builds on Team Up for Families “Start Here–>Get There Strategy Session,” designed to help social work, mental health, and education professionals work with families to develop meeting preparedness skills for individualized education program (IEP), family resource and partnership meetings, intake and other meetings. Participants use their own life experiences to learn strength-based skills for identifying and communicating their priority concerns in a meeting context.

Learning Objectives include:

  • Gain first hand perspectives of parents and caregivers raising children and youth with disabilities and other special needs, who face challenges inherent in navigating multiple child-serving systems (e.g., social services, child welfare, disability supports, education, courts, mental health, primary and specialty medical care)
  • Practice breaking down a complicated situation into manageable “Start Here” Goals through a step-by-step process of identifying functional strengths and priority concerns.
  • Compile a customized Strengths and Concerns Story to describe the complicated situation concisely and effectively in meetings or appointments.
  • Learn specific “Get There” strategies that empower a parent or caregiver to approach IEP meetings, intake appointments, and other provider interactions feeling prepared and confident.

10:15 – 11:30 AM Breakout session A – Self-management: Strategies for Life by Karen Berlin, Region 4 Training and Technical Assistance Center (TTAC) at GMU

Self-management skills increase self-reliance and independence, and promote life-long success. They can improve academic performance, enhance social skills and decrease behaviors interfering with success. This break-out session will provide students and families with self-monitoring strategies that can be used at school home, and in the community.

10:15- 11:30 AM Breakout Session B – Parenting Resources at Your Fingertips: What Families Can Find on Virginia Family Special Education Connection by Clare Talbert, Region 4 Training and Technical Assistance Center (TTAC) at GMU

Please bring your phone or mobile device and take a tour of the Virginia Family Special Education Connection Website. This is your opportunity to explore “Raising and Working with Children and Youth in Foster Care or Living with Kin: Your Guide to Resources in Virginia” as well as “Parent Organizer With Educational Resources (POWER).” Come and learn about resources for educational planning, academic and family support, laws and regulations and lots of solutions to help families and school staff work together.

10:15- 11:30 AM Breakout Session C – Relationship: The Secret Super Glue for Building Resilience in Fractured Families by Sarah Smalls, Family Resource Coordinator, Formed Families Forward and Allyson Halverson, Public Education Manager, SCAN of Northern Virginia and Heather Martinsen, MSW, ICPS, Behavioral Health Wellness Supervisor, PWC Community Services-New Horizons Program

We know that building and strengthening relationship is key to addressing the serious negative impact of adverse childhood experiences and childhood trauma. We also know that in kinship, foster and adoptive families, those relationships may be stressed by many factors. Join trauma experts Allyson Halverson and Heather Martinsen for an overview of the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on children and youth. FFF Family Resource Coordinator Sarah Smalls will host a conversation about challenges that kin caregivers (extended family members), foster and adoptive parents face. Participants will learn specific strategies including use of the Attachment, Regulation and Competence (ARC) approach. 


11:45 AM- 1 PM Breakout session D (Repeated session) – Self-management: Strategies for Life by Karen Berlin, Region 4 Training and Technical Assistance Center (TTAC) at GMU

Self-management skills increase self-reliance and independence, and promote life-long success. They can improve academic performance, enhance social skills and decrease behaviors interfering with success. This break-out session will provide students and families with self-monitoring strategies that can be used at school home, and in the community.

11:45 AM – 1 PM Breakout session E – What Happens When They Leave You? by Diane Loomis, Region 4 Training and Technical Assistance Center, George Mason University and Kim Bledsoe, Transition Specialist, Culpeper County Public Schools

How do I prepare my child for a successful transition into adulthood? When do I start? (hint: early is good). Children,whose families plan for their eventual transition into young adulthood have a greater likelihood of success when they become young adults. You can partner with schools to plan. You can help your child find his/her own voice to express her/his needs and dreams. You can do things at home to help your child both identify their innate strengths and develop new skills for the life journey ahead

11:45 AM – 1 PM Breakout session F – Let the System Do the Work by Kimberly Harrell, LPC, and FFF Board Chair

For those of us parenting challenging children we often feel fully responsible to manage all the aspects of our children’s lives. We advocate, we support, we encourage and provide consequences. What if you could take a break from these challenges from time to time and let someone else take on one or two of those responsibilities? Letting go can be very hard but many of the systems we interact with have this capability. Let’s explore how to let go and let the system do the work.

Keynote and Professional Workshop Presenter Bio—Wendy Besmann (pronounced BESS-MAN)

Wendy Besmann, the mother of a son with autism and bipolar disorder, is Director of Get There Project, President of Melton Hill Media, and founder of TUFF. While working with a federally-funded system of care for transition-age youth in Knox County, Tennessee, she trained staff to use High Fidelity Wraparound, a strengths-based approach to serving the complex needs of children, youth, and their families. She is the author of Team Up for Your Child: A Step-By-Step Guide to Working Smarter with Doctors, Schools, Insurers, and Agencies (2008, 2012), Family Road Map: A Step-By-Step Guide to Navigating Health, Education, and Insurance Systems for Families with Special Needs (2017), and Young Adult Road Map: A Step-By-Step Guide to Navigating Wellness, Independent Living, and Transition Services for People in Their Teens and Twenties (2018). Wendy is co-author of Family Road Map Lesson Plan and Young Adult Lesson Plan (2017) as well as a series of online eLearning curricula for families, young adults, and service providers. To date, her curricula and family workshops have reached more than 700 family members in nine states, from Maine to Guam. Her work has appeared in many national publications, including the journal Emotional and Behavioral Support in Youth. A native Californian, she and her husband Ted have lived for many years in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Download general SPRING FORWARD FLYER HERE.

Download the Professional Conference SPRING FORWARD FLYER HERE.