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Our History

Since 1987, families around New Jersey and beyond have made SPAN their first stop for support and resources.

SPAN was founded in 1987, in Westfield, NJ, by parents of children with special needs. We received non-profit status and our first Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) grant in 1989 as well as pilot funding from NJ Department of Health for Project CARE. That same year, we began training volunteer SPAN Resource Parents (SRPs) to support families.

In 1996, SPAN moved from Westfield to Newark, New Jersey’s largest school district, and started the NJ Statewide Parent to Parent to match parents experiencing significant stress or crises with other parents who have been trained to be “support parents.”

Since then, SPAN has started, piloted, and run multiple projects and programs for parents of children from birth to age 21, all the while teaching families and caregivers to be advocates for their children and leaders in their communities in collaboration with their school districts.

SPAN is proud to have been the first stop for families around New Jersey for 35 years. As we’ve grown, we’ve expanded our services and support across the US and US Territories. We’ve even had several international collaborations that have allowed us to bring the model resources and information we provide our parents and children here to other countries looking to improve their systems and become parent and community leaders in support of their children.


  • KNOW their rights
  • ACCESS resources and information
  • SECURE appropriate services
  • NAVIGATE education, health, mental health systems
  • KEEP children in school
  • PREPARE for life after high school
  • CONNECT with other parents who understand
  • BE catalysts to improve services for children and families
  • START parent groups
  • BECOME effective partners in improving schools
  • ADVOCATE for other children and families


» SPAN Confidentiality Policy

» SPAN’s Technical Assistance Policy

Our Vision, Mission and Committment

Our Vision 

SPAN’s vision is that all families will have the resources and support they need to ensure that their children become fully participating and contributing members of our communities and society.

Our Mission

Our mission is to empower and support families, and inform and involve professionals interested in the healthy development and education of children and youth.

Our Commitment

Our foremost commitment is to children and families with the greatest need due to disability or special health/mental health needs; poverty; discrimination based on race/ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, language, immigrant or homeless status; involvement in the child welfare or juvenile justice systems; geographic location; or other special circumstances. 

Our motto is Empowered Parents: Educated, Engaged, Effective!

35 Years of Advocacy

Providing information, resources, support, and advocacy assistance to families, professionals, policy makers, and our Parent Center colleagues

Our foremost commitment is to those with greatest need due to:

  • Disability or special health/mental health needs
  • Material poverty or financial instability
  • Discrimination (race, sex, language, immigrant status, homelessness, etc.)
  • Involvement in the foster care, child welfare, or juvenile justice systems
  • Geographic location
  • Other special circumstances

35 Things for 35 Years

Explore SPAN’s impact 

over the years.

SPAN is proud to be a member of the following advocacy groups and coalitions:


  • Anti-Poverty Network of NJ
  • Map to Inclusive Child Care Team
  • NJ 4 Healthcare Coalition
  • NJ Alliance for Immigrant Justice
  • NJ Alliance of Family Support Organizations
  • NJ Black Issues Convention
  • NJ Breastfeeding Coalition
  • NJ Coalition for Special Education Funding Reform
  • NJ Council for Young Children
  • NJ Family Support Coalition
  • NJ Juvenile Justice Reform Coalition
  • NJ Medicaid Advocates
  • NJ Special Education Practitioners
  • NJ Time to Care Coalition


  • Family Voices
  • National Association for Family School and Community Engagement
  • National Center for Parent Leadership, Advocacy, and Community Empowerment (National PLACE)
  • National Center on Learning Disabilities Product Advisory Board
  • National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health
  • Parent to Parent USA