What is a Family Navigator?

A parent, sibling, grandparent or primary caregiver who is supporting or has supported a child with disabilities or special health care needs AND a young person with a disability (“self-advocate”) who are:

  • trained to volunteer to help other families in accessing supports and services for their child and family
  • knowledgeable about local and state resources

How can a Family Navigator help my family?

They Provide:

  • One-to-one emotional support
  • Information, referral and connections to services for your child/family member with a disability
  • Enhanced support and tools to help you plan for service meetings (i.e., IEP, ISP)
  • Culturally sensitive and unbiased information so you can make the best choice for your child/family member with a disability
  • Workshops and educational opportunities
  • Do Family Navigators provide legal advice or counseling or advise families on decisions pertaining to their children?

    No. They offer support and information and discuss options with families so they can make the best choices for their children/family member. Family Navigators work in collaboration with local agencies, and many participate on planning and advisory committees to provide a family perspective on policies and programs for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

    Who operates the Family Navigator program?

    The Family to Family Network of Virginia is operated by the Center for Family Involvement housed at the Partnership for People with Disabilities at VCU.

    Do Family Navigators attend school (IEP) or adult service (ISP) meetings as advocates?

    The primary role of a Family Navigator is to prepare families for IEPs or ISPs — not to attend IEP/ISP meetings — and to teach families how to be good advocates for their children/family member with a disability. After discussing through phone or email all of the family’s concerns about the special education or adult service system process for their child/family member, the Family Navigator or other Center for Family Involvement staff may hold an IEP or ISP pre-planning meeting with the family using a variety of tools to review components of an IEP or ISP; discuss negotiation skills and mediation; and to help the family to identify a support person in their life who can attend IEP/ISP meetings with them.