Family Engagement

First Steps is Indiana's early intervention system, serving children ages birth through two years of age experiencing developmental delays or disabilities and their families.

There are many ways that a family can be an active participant in the First Steps system. Most importantly, family members know their child better than anyone else. It is vital that family members understand their role as IFSP team members and that they feel confident and empowered to share information and ask questions as they work with providers to help their child develop. Providers need to make engaging families one of their highest priorities, because research shows that children with engaged families do better than children whose family members are not engaged.

In addition to working with early intervention providers and participating fully in sessions, family members can choose to become engaged with First Steps on a local level by becoming a member of the Local Planning and Coordinating Council (LPCC). To see a map and find contact information, click here. This type of participation allows family members to share their experiences with others in the system and to contribute to the functioning of First Steps.

Finally, if parents are interested in contributing to the First Steps system on a State level, they can apply to participate on the Interagency Coordinating Council (ICC). Participation at this level gives parents an opportunity to share their perspective with policy makers and to advocate for system change.

  • First Steps providers are required to make a good faith effort to assist each eligible child and family to achieve the outcomes in the child's IFSP.
  • Research shows that child outcomes improve when providers treat family members as equal participants on the IFSP team. To achieve this, it is important to listen to family members, be non-judgmental, provide information and activities that are realistic and appropriate for that family at that time, and engage in activities that are important to the family.
  • Early intervention services must be provided in a child's natural environments, including home and community settings.
  • In order to fully engage a family, providers need to work with the child and family where they typically spend time, using their materials, and incorporating activities into their daily routines.

Division of Early Childhood (DEC) Recommended Practices (2014)

  • F1 Practitioners build trusting and respectful partnerships with the family through interactions that are sensitive and responsive to cultural, linguistic, and socio-economic diversity.
  • F3 Practitioners are responsive to the family's concerns, priorities, and changing life circumstances.
  • F4 Practitioners and the family work together to create outcomes or goals, develop individualized plans, and implement practices that address the family's priorities and concerns and the child's strengths and needs.
  • F5 Practitioners support family functioning, promote family confidence and confidence, and strengthen family-child relationships by acting in ways that recognize that recognize and build on family strengths and capacities.
  • F6 Practitioners engage the family in opportunities that support and strengthen parenting, knowledge and skills, and parent competence and confidence in ways that are flexible, individualized, and tailored to the family's preferences.
  • TC2 Practitioners and families work together as a team to systematically and regularly exchange expertise, knowledge, and information to build team capacity and jointly solve problems, plan, and implement interventions.


  • The LPCC is required to have at least one early intervention provider and at least two family members with a child with a disability as voting members of the council.
  • The LPCC should actively recruit family members and providers by sharing information about the council with provider agencies and directly to families. Information about family stipends should be shared and efforts should be made to hold meetings at convenient times and locations.
  • LPCC representatives are involved in the planning, development, operation, and evaluation of the early intervention service system in the region represented by the LPCC.
  • Parents and providers are encouraged to participate on the LPCC in order to provide their unique perspectives on how the system functions and ways that it could be improved on a local level.
  • Research suggests that family members serving as advocates at a systems level may experience benefits in terms of increased empowerment, feelings of competency and confidence.
  • Indiana requires that the ICC have at least twenty percent (20%) of the members be parents, including minority parents, of infants and toddlers with disabilities or children who are less than thirteen (13) years of age with disabilities.  Parents must have the knowledge of, or experience with, programs for infants and toddlers with disabilities.  At least one (1) of the parent members must be a parent of an infant or toddler with a disability or a child with a disability who is less than seven (7) years of age.
  • SPOEs and provider agencies should educate staff about what the ICC does so that service coordinators and providers who encounter parents with an interest in sharing their story are able to effectively provide information about the ICC (e.g., function, meeting schedule, contact information) and encourage participation.

Division of Early Childhood (DEC) Recommended Practices (2014):

  • L3 Leaders develop and implement policies, structures, and practices that promote shared decision-making with practitioners and families.
  • L6 Leaders establish partnerships across levels (state to local) and with their counterparts in other systems and agencies to create coordinated and inclusive systems of services and supports.
  • L12 Leaders collaborate with stakeholders to collect and use data for program management and continuous program improvement and to examine the effectiveness of services and supports in improving child and family outcomes.
First Steps State Administration:
Bureau of Child Development Services
402 W. Washington Street W453, MS-51
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2739

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