Puppets in Education began in 1982 as Champlain Valley Kids on the Block (CVKOB) in Burlington, Vermont, through the inspiration of a volunteer group of teachers and parents from the Ira Allen Early Essential Education Center. The troupe performed locally addressing four disability awareness topics for children in grades K-4 (Cerebral Palsy, Blindness, Deafness and Down Syndrome). In 1989 the organization received it’s tax-exempt status.
In the same spirit that inspired it’s beginnings, CVKOB continued adding programs to meet crucial community needs: Physical and Sexual Abuse Prevention; Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Prevention; Cultural Diversity; Children’s Mental Health and other important topics.
As new programs were added, their geographic regions expanded as well. In 2000 the organization moved out of volunteers’ homes and into the puppet’s first office, changing it’s name to Kids on the Block-Vermont (KOBVT) to reflect it’s statewide outreach.
In 2009, the board of directors voted to once more expand programming to include Autism Spectrum Disorders. As a result, they created an organization that would encompass both current and new programs: Puppets in Education (PiE). PiE now includes Kids on the Block-Vermont and Friend 2 Friend Programs-Vermont.
On September 1, 2017 Vermont Family Network (VFN) officially said “Welcome to the Family” to Puppets in Education. Puppets in Education dissolved the 501(c)3 status and became a program of VFN, a non-profit organization with a mission to empower and support all Vermont families of children with special needs.
Statewide, VFN’s programs provide families of children with special health needs or disabilities with a strong start through support, information and connection, lifting family voices and advancing inclusive communities. In 2017, the Family Support program helped over 1500 families navigate the complexities of special education, healthcare, and disability resources. The Children’s Integrated Services Early Intervention program provided home visits and developmental education to 544 infants and toddlers in Chittenden County. VFN support, information and trainings are invaluable to families of children with special needs and the professionals who serve them.
PiE will contribute to and expand the mission of VFN to empower and support all Vermont families of children with special needs. Together they will grow appreciation and inclusion among the greater community, supporting children and families in schools and where they live. Their goal is to invest in the strengths, gifts, and abilities of all children and families to help them reach their full potential. In the words of one enthusiastic child, “We are all different; that’s what makes us the same!”