Early Intervention: Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)
Once your child’s eligibility for early intervention has been established, your child will be assigned to a service coordinator, who will contact you to schedule a meeting to draft your child’s Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). The IFSP is a document that describes your child’s needs, goals, and objectives, as well as the services and supports your child requires to achieve those goals and objectives.
The IFSP is similar in concept to an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which sets goals and establishes special education services provided to school-age children by the school district. However, the IFSP meeting is much less formal than an IEP meeting. While an IEP meeting will usually include parents, teachers, service providers, and a district administrator, typically an IFSP meeting will be attended only by the parent(s) and the service coordinator, as well as the child, where appropriate. It is not necessary to bring anybody else with you to the IFSP meeting.
However, if you prefer not to attend alone, you can bring an advocate, a service provider, or a family member or friend who knows your child well. The meeting can be held at the Regional Center, or the service coordinator can come to your home or another place that is convenient for you.
Tip: The Regional Center must provide translation/interpretation services so that in-person and phone meetings, written IFSPs, and other documents (including appeal materials) are accessible to clients and parents/guardians who do not feel comfortable communicating and/or receiving information in English. You should notify the service coordinator in advance if you will require translation/interpretation services during a meeting.
What to Expect at Your First IFSP Meeting
At the meeting, you and the service coordinator will discuss your child’s needs and goals, specific concerns you may have about your child’s development, and what services you receive from other resources. You will also discuss Regional Center–funded services that may be appropriate for your child.
Services provided by the Regional Center through the IFSP are based on the goals and objectives you list for your child, so if you plan to request particular services, be sure that they are supported by your child’s goals. If you want to ask for a particular therapy, for example, your child’s IFSP should address your concerns with your child’s delays in that area of development. Learn how to write IFSP goals here.
For infants and toddlers, available services might include physical, occupational and speech therapies, infant stimulation, center-based programming (from 18-36 months), copayment assistance, respite care, and support groups and conferences. Physical and occupational therapies are available from infancy, but most Regional Centers will not provide speech therapy before ages 18 to 24 months, since language often develops later in infancy among typically-developing children.
In some limited instances, children under the age of three may be able to enroll in Medi-Cal regardless of family income. These limited cases involve children with substantial medical impairments along with a diagnosis of developmental disability. Read more about this here.
You will hear the service coordinator refer to the Regional Center as the “payor of last resort.” This means they only fund services if there is no other entity (called a “generic resource”) responsible for funding them. The Regional Center will always require you to exhaust private and community resources prior to approving funding. For children with private medical insurance, the Regional Center will require that you exhaust the insurance benefit for a service or receive a written denial before it will approve funding.
Tip: Children who are anticipated to age out of early intervention services during the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible for continuation of services during the transition process. Please check the DDS website for updated information.
What Goes into the Written IFSP?
Federal law governs the requirements for what must be included in the IFSP. At minimum, the IFSP must include:
Your child’s present levels of physical, cognitive, communication, social/emotional, and adaptive development based on the evaluations and assessments.
A statement of the family’s resources, priorities, and concerns related to their child’s development.
A statement of expected measurable outcomes/results, and the criteria, procedures, and timelines that will be used to measure the degree to which progress is being made and whether adjustments are necessary, either to expected outcomes/results or to services.
A statement of the specific services that are necessary to meet the child’s unique needs and allow the child to achieve the results and outcomes described in the previous section. The statement of services should include:
a. Length, duration, frequency, intensity, and method of service delivery;
b. A statement that each service will be provided in the child’s natural environment to the maximum extent possible, or if necessary, a justification as to why the service is not provided in the natural environment. The decision about where to conduct services, including any justification for not conducting services in the child’s natural environment, must be made by the IFSP team.
Where appropriate, a description of other services the child needs or is receiving, including medical services and other services that are not required or funded under early intervention. If the child is not receiving needed outside services, this section should include the steps the service coordinator may take to assist the family in securing those outside services.
Projected start date and anticipated duration of each service being provided pursuant to the IFSP. The start date must be as soon as possible following the parent’s consent to the IFSP.
The name of the service coordinator who will be responsible for implementing the IFSP.
Steps and services to be taken to support a smooth transition from Regional Center early intervention to the local educational agency (LEA), usually the school district. This section should include discussions with and training of parents regarding transition, procedures to help the child transition to changes in service delivery, confirmation of information coordination between the Regional Center and the LEA, and identification of services needed to support the transition.