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 OR 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?
- One-to-one emotional support
- Information, referral and connections to services for your child
- Enhanced support and tools to help you plan for service meetings (i.e., IEP and ISP)
- Culturally sensitive and unbiased information so you can make the best choice for your child and family
- 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 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 with 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 IEP meetings as advocates?
The primary role of a Family Navigator is to prepare families for IEPs — not to attend IEPs — and to teach families how to be good advocates for their children. After discussing through phone or email all of the family’s concerns about the special educations process for their child, the Family Navigator or other Center for Family Involvement staff may hold an IEP preplanning meeting with the family using a variety of tools to review components of an IEP; discuss negotiation skills and mediation; and to help the family to identify a support person in their life who can attend IEP meetings with them.