Family Voices of Wisconsin (FVW)

Alexandria Felton

What is Family Voices of Wisconsin?

  • a non-profit organization
  • a state affiliate of the national Family Voices organization
  • function as Wisconsin’s Family-to-Family Health Information Center and are acknowledged as the Family Leadership Hub for Wisconsin’s Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs (CYSHCN) partnership
  • use connections to help families find as well as select appropriate supports and services

Where is FVW?


  • FVW has two primary offices; one is located in Madison and the other is located in Milwaukee.
    • Their mailing address is: P.O. Box 5070 Madison, WI 53705.
    • However they host training sessions throughout the entire state.
  • Their typical hours of operation are Monday through Friday 9am-5pm. However, many of their training sessions are held during the evening hours between 5:30-88:30pm on weeknights and on Saturday mornings from 9:00am-noon.
  • FVW services the entire state of Wisconsin.

History:


  • The national affiliate Family Voices stated in 1992.
    • The organizational meeting occurred in 1992. Many fathers of children with disabilities attended this meeting and made the initiation of Family Voices possible.
    • One father volunteered for over ten years to get the organization going. He did research, made the first data base, did book keeping, build furniture for the office, and organized the first conference.
  • Family Voices of Wisconsin began about 15 years ago.
    • It was started by a parent who had a child with a disability.

What does FVW do?

  • FVW works with parents by hosting training sessions on various topics as well as providing them with resources that they can use to acquire more information.
    • One training session that they provide is: “Did you know? Now you Know!” This training provides parents with information about health care and health coverage as well as special health care needs of children birth through high school aged.
    • They also provide training sessions about advocacy and community support for parents.
  • Furthermore, they interact with parents, students, and schools by having training sessions about transitions.
    • The most popular transition training session for transition is “What is After High School”. Their website describes this session as “a broad overview on transition to adult life for youth with disabilities and/or special health care needs. Topics include: envisioning a youth’s future in the community; post-secondary education; long term supports; vocational resources; transitioning to adult health care; guardianship and other legal options; living in the community; and the fundamentals of self-determination”.
    • High schools often co-sponsor these events; in doing so, high schools often host the event in their building.

What Services do They Provide?

  • The primary services that FVW provides are training and information.
    • They do this through the use of training sessions, fact sheets, and newsletters.
    • They do various different training sessions including the “Did you know? Now you Know!” and the “What is After High School” training as mentioned above.
    • Some of their activities include family leadership activities such as the annual “Advocacy for Change Institutions” as well as the “Circle of Life Conference”.
      • Advocacy for a Change is a forum for parents and family members where they are able to learn new information and skills in order to help them improve the lives of individuals with disabilities.
      • The Circle of Life Conference is a two day conference designed for both parents and professionals who work with individuals with disabilities. Since attendees are able to select several of their sessions, it provides a variety of different topics and information to meet in interests and needs of those who attend.
  • They do not provide services directly to the individuals with disabilities rather they are a resource for education and information about individuals with disabilities. Their primary audience is family members (especially parents) then professionals who work with individuals with disabilities.

How Can the Services be Accessed?

  • All services are free to participate in.
  • Anyone who wants to attend a training session, to read the newsletter and the fact sheets, or to use the resources that they provide is able to.
    • Consequently, there is not eligibility requirement.
    • Events are located all around the state in order to make participating in training sessions more realistic and convenient for those who are interested.
  • All of their resources, information, and training sessions can be found at their website: http://fvofwi.org/
  • People who are interested in receiving the FVW newsletter in the mail can contact Lynn via email at: lynn@fvofwi.org or they can call: 1- 608-828-9959.
  • Additionally, individuals are able to access more information and national events through FVW’s national affiliate: Family Voices.
    • Their website is: http://www.familyvoices.org/
    • Through this website printed materials can be downloaded for free or ordered in bulk (the only cost is the price of the shipping).
  • Many of their resources and trainings sessions are available in both English and Spanish allowing individuals with either English or Spanish as the primary language the ability to learn from their services.

Funding


  • The agency is funded through grants at the state and federal level.
    • State grants come from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
    • Federal grants come from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau under the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Additionally they receive some funding through donations.

How is the Agency Evaluated?

· The agency is evaluated by the funders. Consequently they are evaluated by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services staff as well as the US governmental agencies that provide FVW with grants.

· The representative that I conversed with was unsure about how these agencies specifically evaluate FVW.

Link to IEP / Transition Process

· FVW does not directly participate in the IEP or transition process. In other words, they do not work with students as they are developing their IEP and their transition plans.

· However, they do provide resources and help to inform students and their parents about options that might be available for their children during various stages of their life, including children of transition age.