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V.I.T.A.L. Supports for caregivers and family members of TAY

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Caregiver Resources Educational Advocacy Gender Identity Health / Mental Health Issues Facing Teens Sexual Orientation


Caregiver Resources
Child Welfare Information Gateway promotes the safety, permanency, and well-being of children, youth, and families by connecting child welfare, adoption, and related professionals as well as the public to information, resources, and tools covering topics on child welfare, child abuse and neglect, out-of-home care, adoption, and more.  A service of the Children's Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, we provide access to print and electronic publications, websites, databases, and online learning tools for improving child welfare practice, including resources that can be shared with families.  Child Welfare Information Resources

Family Centered Services of Connecticut
(FCS) works with families to ensure they are safe and nurturing places where children can succeed.

Wheeler Clinic  Wheeler’s Caregiver Support Team supports Department of Children and Families (DCF)-licensed foster homes, with a focus on kinship families – biological relatives of a child or children in care. The program is designed to prevent – or minimize – disruption of a child’s placement with a foster family by providing intensive in-home interventions to the child and family. The goals of the program are to foster stable placements; assess and respond to family needs; identify and cultivate strengths and supports within the family; and enhance parenting skills of both the kinship and biological family.

the Connecticut Alliance of Foster and Adoptive Families (CAFAF)  The mission of the Connecticut Alliance of Foster and Adoptive Families (CAFAF) is to strengthen foster, adoptive and kinship care families through support, training and advocacy with the aim of nurturing child safety, well-being and stability in partnership with child welfare professionals and the entire community.  CAFAF’s vision is that the citizens of Connecticut recognize that family life is a necessity for all children. The family creates the optimum environment for appropriate responses to a child’s developmental and specialized needs. We also envision that foster, adoptive and kinship care families are of an adequate number, skill and cultural diversity to assure high quality care for all children. This knowledge, skill and attitude will be transmitted through peer to peer empowerment. Lastly, CAFAF strives to help develop communities that are engaged in meeting the unique needs of foster and adoptive children and in supporting their resource families.  CAFAP Resources

The Department of Children and Families (DCF)
Working together with families and communities to improve child safety, ensure that more children have permanent families, and advance the overall well-being of children is the central focus of the Department of Children and Families (DCF). DCF protects children who are being abused or neglected, strengthens families through support and advocacy, and builds on existing family and community strengths to help children who are facing emotional and behavioral challenges, including those committed to the Department by the juvenile justice system.

Additional DCF Links:


The Office of Early Childhood (OEC)  is a state agency that oversees a network of programs and services that help young children and families thrive. And a key part of that work is supporting the providers, teachers, and other professionals who’ve dedicated their careers to caring for and educating children.  OEC Parenting Specific Support Page



Health / Mental Health

Nemours is a nonprofit children's health system. Our goal is to help parents, kids, and teens take charge of their health. We aim to give families the tools and confidence to make the best health choices.

Here's what you'll find on KidsHealth.org

  • Doctor-reviewed advice on hundreds of physical, emotional, and behavioral topics — from before birth through the teen years.
  • Separate sections for parents, kids, and teens, each created with your questions in mind.
  • Easy-to-follow articles, slideshows, videos, and health tools designed to help families learn, grow, and be their best.
  • Free lesson plans and programs for teachers and early childhood educators.
  • Parents Resources

DCF Sponsored Community Based Mental Health Services



Issues Facing Teens

ZUR Institute:  has been providing continuing education courses to mental health professionals for over 26 years. Building off our reputation of providing thought provoking, leading edge information, we are now extending to the general public the most up to date and relevant mental health information as it pertains to healthier and more balanced living.

Issues Facing Teens: This page addresses some of the most important issues facing our teenagers at this time. These include teen suicide, teen violence, cyberbullying (online bullying), Internet & online addiction, teens and sex, teens and substance abuse, teen anorexia and eating disorders, violent video games, teens watching porn, TV violence, violence at home, & violent culture. Parents, teachers and communities across the country are concerned with teen issues, which are caused by a number of social, cultural, technological, communal, economic, familial, and individual factors. While it may be hard to change the nature of the Internet, computers, cell phones and TV, there is always something that each one of us can do to reduce teen violence, the rate of teen suicide, teen cyber-bullying, bullying at school, and help develop a well-adjusted relationship to our technological and commercialized culture, and a creative and balanced use of the Internet, Online Gaming, etc. Following is information about the underlying forces behind these teen issues, as well as actions that parents, teachers and each one of us can take to address them. https://www.zurinstitute.com/issues-facing-teenagers/


Sexual Orientation, Inherent Sexuality and Gender Identify
Teens want an answer to the eternal question, "Who am I?" Part of the answer lies in their sexual self. The teen years can be a confusing time. Hormones, cultural and peer pressures, and fear of being different can cause many teens to question themselves in many areas, including their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Sexual orientation/Inherent Sexuality
Sexual orientation is how you are attracted romantically and sexually to other people. For example, a person may be:

  • Heterosexual—attracted only or almost only to the other binary (male/female) gender.
  • Gay—attracted only or almost only to those of the same gender.
  • Bisexual—attracted both to people of their own binary gender and to those of the other binary gender.
  • Pansexual—attracted to those of any gender.
  • Asexual—not sexually attracted to any gender. This is different from deciding not to have sex with anyone (abstinence or celibacy).
Many people first become aware of their sexual orientation during the preteen and teen years.  During the teen years, same-sex crushes and sexual experiments are common. These early experiences do not always mean that a teen will be gay, lesbian, or bisexual as an adult.  For some teens, same-sex attractions do not fade. They grow stronger.



Gender Identity

Gender identity is your inner sense of being male, female, both, neither, or some other gender. For transgender people, their gender identity does not match the sex that they were assigned at birth. Sometimes gender identity is outside the two most common categories of male or female. People who feel this way may use the term "nonbinary."

Children form their gender identity early. Most children believe firmly by the age of 3 that they are either a girl or a boy.  The feeling that something is different may begin early in life. Many transgender adults remember feeling a difference between their bodies and what they felt inside at a young age. Others did not feel this way until later in life.

Love and support are key.  Many parents have a hard time accepting that their child is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Even if you are struggling, remember that it's important to show unconditional love to your child.

Teens who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender sometimes don't reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity for a long time. They may be afraid of what their friends, family, and others will say and do. They can feel relief when they come out to their family and friends and find love, support, and acceptance.

Your teen can be emotionally healthy and happy regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. When teens have problems, it usually isn't because of their orientation or gender identity. It's usually because of a lack of support from the people they love or because they have been ridiculed, rejected, or harassed.
Young people who are gay, bisexual, or transgender are at greater risk for:
  • Being shamed by society (social stigma).
  • Being shut out or excluded by peers or family members.
  • Depression.
  • Suicide.
  • Homelessness

If you or other family members are having a hard time accepting your child's sexual orientation or gender identity, organizations such as Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) may be helpful. You can find a list of other useful groups on their website at www.pflag.org.

PFLAG  is the first and largest organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) people, their parents and families, and allies. With over 400 chapters and 200,000 members and supporters crossing multiple generations of families in major urban centers, small cities, and rural areas across America, PFLAG is committed to creating a world where diversity is celebrated and all people are respected, valued, and affirmed.

Strong Family Alliance  is an organization with a simple mission – to save lives and preserve families by helping children come out and parents become informed supporters and allies.  We give parents and LGBTQ people accurate information, insights on this challenging transition for both parents and children, ways to keep LGBTQ children safe and healthy, and encouragement for parents to lead with love and solve problems over time. We provide a non-political, research-based source of information and guidance to help build understanding and strong relationships.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Founded in 1955, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world, with more than 120,000 members. NASW works to enhance the professional growth and development of its members, to create and maintain professional standards, and to advance sound social policies.  This link is an excellent guide for understanding sexual and gender identity issues:  NASW Gender Identity Resources


Educational Advocacy

Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center, Inc. (CPAC)  is a statewide nonprofit organization that offers information and support to families of children with any disability or chronic illness, age birth through 26. The Center is committed to the idea that parents can be the most effective advocates for their children, given the confidence that knowledge and understanding of special education law and its procedures can bring.

Through outreach efforts and referrals from schools, social service agencies and other parents, the number of families that Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center serves has grown dramatically over the past 32 years. We continue to take pride in providing prompt and personal assistance to all who contact us. CPAC is staffed by parents of children with disabilities who have training in, and personal experience with, the law and disability issues.

In addition to speaking with parents on a daily basis, CPAC staff conduct workshops for parents as well as in-service presentations for schools, teachers-in-training and service providers throughout the state so that they may better understand and serve the parents with whom they work. Staff and Board members serve on numerous statewide committees and various organizations, representing issues that are of concern to parents and families in Connecticut.\


Questions Your Child Will Want You to Ask: 
  • Is there someone you can talk to that will understand your concerns and feelings?
  • Are you telling loved ones or friends about your concerns for me and my health/development?
  • How do you respond to others’ concerns about me?
  • How do you make sure your concerns about me are being acknowledged?
  • Do you know other parents who have been in a similar situation or had similar concerns?
  • Do you know how to connect with other parents? 
  • Are you taking time to enjoy being my parent?
  • Are you trying to find a balance between your needs, the family’s needs and mine?
  • Are you taking a friend or other parent to my IEP meetings?
  • Have you joined the school PTA?
  • What are my family rights and my rights regarding education?
  • Do you know about procedural safeguards and what it means for me and for you as an advocate?
  • Do you know where you can get help from educational and/or health advocates?