Improving Systems, Practices and Outcomes

IFSP Process: Planning and Implementing
Family-Centered Services in Natural Environments

Recently added content to the IFSP topic:

Serving Children and Families in Natural Environments

An important purpose of Part C of the IDEA is to enhance the capacity of families to meet the special needs of their infants and toddlers. Providing services in natural environments creates opportunities to support family members' helping their child learn through their typical routines and activities. The NECTAC Keys to Natural Environments and Inclusion website has examples of state policy and guidance, a searchable annotated bibliography, information for families and many other resources to promote effective services in natural environments.

Enhancing Services in Natural Environments, a web-enhanced conference call series, March - May, 2004, was sponsored by OSEP Community of Practice on Part C Settings. Nine nationally known researchers / trainers described research-based approaches to providing services in natural environments. Streaming audio, Powerpoint presentation files and links to other web-based materials on effective practice are available.

The IFSP Process

PDF: The IFSP Process

Although programs have different procedures, there are key steps in the IFSP process. The link shows a chart of a typical flow of steps and responsibilities and indicates the activities that must be completed within 45 days, from referral to the IFSP meeting. For convenience, the chart uses the term "service coordinator" as the person likely to be coordinating the process. More accurately, it should say "service coordinator or other service provider" since states and programs may have different team members assigned to such duties. Different roles may have different names as well, such as intake coordinator, family guide, primary service provider, etc. The chart can be downloaded and adapted to better fit a given state or program.

  • WWW: Nevada and PDF: Maine have guidance materials for steps and procedures through the IFSP process, describing the key principles of providing early intervention services (including teaming, gathering information from families) and how these principles are incorporated in practice.
  • Kentucky produced a WMV: First Steps Family Orientation Video. An excellent overview to the entire IFSP process, including rights and safeguards, and the role of providers in helping family members support their child's learning and development in daily activities.
  • Connecticut Birth to Three's Orientation Video: Providing Hope, Realizing Dreams uses family stories to describe early intervention and the IFSP process.

Family Assessment: Gathering Information from Families

The language in Part C requiring a "family assessment" does not imply that early intervention personnel should "assess" or evaluate the family in any respect. Rather, family members are invited to share information, on a voluntary basis, to help service providers understand their concerns, priorities and resources related to supporting their child's development and learning and any other issues the family may want help to address.

Resources for Writing Good IFSP Outcomes

Writing functional outcomes that reflect both the family's interests and priorities and professional information from assessments is an important IFSP team activity. Outcomes are identified and written before the discussion of the services, supports and strategies that will be used to achieve them. Outcomes should describe the context (family routines or activities which will provide the opportunity to work on them) and the "end point" (the measurable or observable skills and behaviors that mark successful completion.)

PDF: Using the Information Gathered to Develop the IFSP

Many types of information about the child and his/her family are gathered during a high quality assessment. The IFSP team (including family members) uses the information as the basis for team decisions about priorities, outcomes, who will work on each outcome, and the strategies, supports and services necessary to achieve outcomes. The link provides resources for using information to develop the IFSP.

Evaluating the Quality of IFSPs

Several states have developed rating forms for evaluating the quality of IFSPs. Forms are used for accountability, monitoring and self assessment by local programs or providers.

State Examples of IFSP Forms and Guidance for Completion

Many states have developed an IFSP format and either require its use statewide or allow local programs and providers the option of using the state form. Help us keep the collection of forms up to date by e-mailing Joicey Hurth if your form has been revised, or if you know of an online form that could be added.

Training Resources

This page presents a compilation of states' on-line courses or modules that are part of a credentialing or qualification process for service coordinators and other early intervention providers. Additionally, there is a collection of on-line training materials that states are using in early intervention programs to provide inservice supports for EI providers. (page created February 1, 2010)

PDF: Relationship of Quality Practices to Child and Family Outcome Measurement Results

This document will assist states in identifying ways to improve results for children and families participating in Part C early intervention services through implementation of quality practices. Key practices were selected from the Agreed Upon Practices for Providing Early Intervention Services in Natural Environments as well as the Personnel Standards for Early Education and Early Intervention: Guidelines for Licensure in Early Childhood Special Education (DEC Recommended Practices). Although all quality practices identified in these two documents potentially impact child and family outcomes, only key quality practices that either have the most direct impact on the specific outcomes or have a lesser, yet still direct impact on specific outcomes are included. The appendices of the document include various ways in which the table may be used.

Links on this site are verified monthly. This page content was last updated on 2014-03-06 AML

Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center

  • CB 8040
  • Chapel Hill, NC 27599-8040
  • phone: 919.962.2001
  • fax: 919.966.7463
  • email: ectacenter@unc.edu

The ECTA Center is a program of the FPG Child Development Institute of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, funded through cooperative agreement number H326P120002 from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the Department of Education's position or policy.

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