The Indiana First Steps System is based on family centered, coordinated services. A family centered approach to intervention is emphasized in Part C of IDEA. Part C mandates family involvement in a variety of ways.
Families are to be involved in:
1) establishing outcomes for their child within the context of the family system;
2) designing and implementing strategies for intervention; and
3) determining the progress that their child is making. Critical elements of early intervention are communication between the family and the service providers and respect for the ability of each family to make informed decisions about their child.
Part C provides a structure for family involvement via the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). The IFSP is based on the resources, concerns and priorities of each family and results in the realization of outcomes for the family and child. Another way to ensure family involvement is the Service Coordinator. The Service Coordinator assists the family in obtaining and coordinating appropriate services and resources for their child and family. In that a baby/toddler is totally dependent on others for all of his/her needs, service providers should always consider the family context when assessing or treating a child. The environment must include the relationship between the infant/toddler and his/her caregivers. Caregivers provide the necessary safety, comfort, nourishment and stimulation that enable an infant to develop. Observing, understanding and supporting this fundamental foundation for young children is essential in determining the child’s ability to adapt to and function in his/her environment. By observing an infant/child in the context of his/her environment, one more fully understands the developmental and maturation processes of an infant.
The Division for Early Childhood (DEC) has made the following statement; “Family-based practices provide or mediate the provision of resources and supports necessary for families to have the time, energy, knowledge, and skills to provide their children learning opportunities and experiences that promote child development. Resources and supports provided as part of early intervention/early childhood special education are done in a family-centered manner so family-based practices will have child, parent, and family strengthening and competency enhancing consequences.” This is a significant change in approach to treatment philosophy for many providers who were used to the more traditional medical model of child-focused services. The philosophy of family-centered care supports a collaborative relationship between families and professionals. The goal of this relationship is to be responsive to the priorities and concerns of the family while making use of all available resources. Indiana has defined key elements of family-centered services in its Vision Statement. “Our goal is to serve infants and toddlers with special developmental needs by providing a family centered, comprehensive, coordinated, neighborhood-based system of services for them and their families.
To this end we:
Involve families in the development, implementation and evaluation of the service system.
Make services accessible and widely dispersed throughout the community.
Offer choices to families that are typical of the choices available to all families of young children in their everyday routines, settings, and activities.
Offer services that are culturally sensitive and tailored to individual needs of the child as well as family priorities.
Offer services that exemplify best practices in early intervention and be accountable for the quality of these services by evaluating them in terms of process and outcome.
Respect families by acknowledging that they are the primary constant in the child’s life and by helping them to make choices as well as supporting them as they implement those choices, even when we disagree with them.
Focus on prevention of, as well as intervention for, disabilities among infants and toddlers, keeping in mind that the ultimate goal is maximizing the potential of children so that they can function as contributing members of society as adults.
Creatively use existing resources and seek additional resources to maximize service options for families and to fairly compensate staff providing services.