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Navigator Team helps parents of disabled children
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Parents of children with disabilities have a new resource in the area - the Newton County Navigator Team.

Team leader Jill McGiboney explained the group consists of local volunteer parents and professionals who are connected through the Parent Leadership Coalition.

"Basically we're just parent advocates and we can answer parents' questions about services and programs in the county," McGiboney said.

The Parent Leadership Coalition is a collaboration of nine non-profit community service organizations and governmental agencies: Babies Can't Wait, Department of Early Care and Learning, the Department of Education's Division for Exceptional Students, Family Connections, Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities, Institute on Human Development and Disabilities, Office of Developmental Disabilities, Parent to Parent of Georgia and Parents Educating Parents and Professionals, Inc.

The Navigator Team meets at 6:45 p.m. on the last Monday of every month in the YMCA After School Building. McGiboney said everyone is invited to attend.

Many of the parents in the group have children with special needs, including McGiboney's 12-year-old daughter Fiona Clare.

"A lot of us have older children," McGiboney said, "and we feel like we've been there and we can help parents with younger children."

According to McGiboney, many times parents with disabled children have to go outside of Newton County for medical services such as physical therapy.

"There aren't too many therapists around and the therapists in town are booked," McGiboney said, "so a lot of the time we have to drive to Conyers, Decatur or Atlanta to get those services."

She did say that although medical services are sometimes hard to come by in the county, the YMCA and the Arts Association in Newton County both provide wonderful programs and experiences for their children.

The Newton County Navigator Team began meeting in March and sent out parent surveys through the county schools' special education department asking for parents concerns. They found many parents of high school students with special needs wanted to know how to obtain legal guardianship of their children after they turned 18 and how to help them find decent careers.

"It's nice to bag groceries at Kroger, but we want better jobs for them," McGiboney said.

She explained nothing was wrong with bagging groceries at Kroger, but she and others on the Navigator Team simply want more options for their children.

She said she has met with members of the Covington Newton County Chamber of Commerce and a vocational rehabilitation expert from the Department of Labor about establishing internships and apprenticeships that result in the hiring of a student after graduation.

For more information about the Newton County Navigator Team visit, call (800) 229-2038 or Jill McGiboney at (378) 712-2258.