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Connection, Understanding, and a Voice: An Interview with Joseph Maley Family Support Manager Liz Freisen

This week the Joseph Maley Foundation has shared the stories of our Family Support Program. From the Fishers, a family in desperate need for help with their daughter Zoey’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), to the connection with program sponsor Connor Reporting. We’re finishing the week with insights from Joseph Maley Family Support Manager, Liz Freisen. Read on to learn how the Family Support Program is growing, and about the impact this program has on central Indiana families.

What does the Joseph Maley Family Support Program offer the community?

The Joseph Maley Family Support Program offers the community connection, understanding, and a voice.  For parents, we provide a listening ear and a dedicated advocate who can help the family in working with their child’s school to ensure their educational needs are met.  We also provide continuing education opportunities for teachers, attorneys, and child-serving staff to learn more about special education, accommodations, and access in the school system. Through our sibling programming we offer camps and workshops designed specifically for children who have a sibling with a disability to connect, share, and have fun.  Additionally, through Love Remains, we provide comfort and resources to families experiencing early infant and late pregnancy loss.

How have you seen the Family Support Program grow and change while you’ve been manager?

In my past year with the Family Support Program, we have grown the number of families we serve with special education evaluation, Individualized Education Plan (IEP) support, 504 plan support, and Case Conference Committee meeting support. This threefold growth is due to increased outreach at community events including resource fairs and parent nights, as well as our partnership where we receive family referrals from  Eskenazi Health’s Medical – Legal Partnership.
This year of growth has been supported by our dedicated pro bono attorneys who volunteer for us and the families we serve.
A highlight of the summer was running our second session of Sibs Summer Camp for children who have a sibling with a disability.  Led by a team of adult volunteers who are “Sibs” themselves, this group fosters a community of shared experiences and understanding. It was a joy to watch friendships blossom as campers had a chance to share, connect, grow, and enjoy summer camp!

Is there something coming up that you are most excited about for JMFS?

I am excited to be growing our attorney volunteer base with an upcoming volunteer orientation on August 30th.  From 12 -1 PM at Kightlinger and Gray, attorneys can learn how to be part of our program while earning CLE – Continuing Legal Education – hours.  These education events help us expose more members of the Indiana Bar to special education law. These events also help us meet attorneys who go on to volunteer providing one-on-one support to families.

Have you personally seen the impact of this program on families? If so, can you describe one of these moments?

Just last week I met a family whose child was only attending school on a half-day schedule. The family was concerned that the child would not be getting fair access to education, and that they were being excluded from their peers.  With the support of a JMFS volunteer, that family was able to voice their concerns to the school in a Case Conference Committee meeting, and now the child is in school for the full educational day, receiving more appropriate speech and language services, and participating in more classes with same-age peers.

How can our followers help support our Joseph Maley Family Support Program?

Friends to JMF can help support our Joseph Maley Family Support in several ways.  First, all JMF programs tie into Family Support. JMF programs help children and the adults in their lives lead with acceptance, kindness, and inclusion. These principles apply to the Family Support Program, too. Our followers can spread the word and share Family Support stories with attorneys who may be interested in volunteering to provide pro bono support. Additionally, donations to Joseph Maley Family Support enhance our ability to provide parent information panels in the community, provide one-on-one support to families working on their child’s IEP or 504 plan, and provide sibling experiences like Sibs Camp to children who have a sibling with a disability.

To make a donation to the Joseph Maley Family Support Program, click here.

To read more about the Fisher Family’s story, click here.

To watch our video interview with Connor Reporting’s Principal, Andrew Connor, click here.