Individualized family service plans (IFSPs) are a tool to assist parents of children with disabilities from birth through the age of two. They are created collaboratively by multi-agency teams of professionals and the family of the child with a suspected developmental delay. IFSPs revolve around helping the family to facilitate the child's development. The guidelines for IFSPs are spelled out in Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and all states in the United States have laws and processes for providing early intervention services.
Children are usually referred to early intervention services through their doctor or through child find services available from your local school district. In some states, IFSPs are coordinated through the Department of Education and in other states, IFSPs are coordinated through the Department of Human Services. If you Google your state's name and IFSP you should be able to find the resources you need. If you have a child who exhibits developmental delays in their physical, cognitive, communicative, social and emotional and/or adaptive skills areas they may qualify for an IFSP.
IFSPs may include screenings, providing a range of therapies to the child, providing family training, providing financial assistance, providing important medical and educational information and providing emotional support to the families of children with developmental delays in one or more areas. Services are not based on financial need and service fees are usually based on a sliding fee scale and vary from state-to-state. There is a strong emphasis on providing support to families of underserved populations, which include; children of color, children living in poverty, homeless children, children living in rural communities and children who are wards of the state
IFSPs are generally revised annually and reviewed every six months or sooner if the parents put in a request for an earlier review. IFSPs are focused on the family as a whole rather than just the individual child because the environment that the child is developing in strongly correlates with their development. Services from agencies are not forced upon parents but are offered to assist the parents in helping their child to reach developmental milestones. The child find team usually includes professionals from the field of education, the medical field, the social services field, the pediatric therapy field and the counseling field.
This diverse team usually screens and assesses the child and then works with the family based on their level of need in different areas to access services their child may need. Whenever possible, therapies are provided in the natural environment of the home or community to enhance the families ability to help their child develop the skills they need and to foster independence. If the team determines that services and support are no longer needed the IFSP may be closed. Usually a few months prior to a child's 3rd birthday, children with developmental delays will be reassessed to determine their eligibility for special education services, which may begin on a child's 3rd birthday if he or she is deemed to be a child with a disability as defined in Part B of IDEA.