Procedural Safeguards

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.

The Division of Disability and Rehabilitative (DDRS) is responsible for ensuring that early intervention providers utilize procedural safeguards consistently and effectively when providing First Steps services across the state. The Local Planning and Coordinating Councils (LPCCs), System Points of Entry (SPOEs) and all service providers must comply with the procedural safeguards outlined in this chapter and are encouraged to engage in best practices related to procedural safeguards in all of their encounters with children and families. Procedural safeguards are a critical component of the First Steps Early Intervention System because they protect the rights of the families we serve.

DDRS developed two documents to explain the procedural safeguards for families within the First Steps System: A Family’s Guide through Procedural Safeguards and the Families Always Have Rights brochure.  These documents must be given to all families at intake. They include the regulations for procedural safeguards and a description of how these safeguards impact families. It is a federal requirement that families receive in writing the full text of the technical language of either federal or state regulations at least annually as well as when formal notices are sent to alert families of a meeting or program change. Although other brochures use more “family friendly” language, the technical language must also be shared to ensure that the true meaning is not unintentionally lost through rephrasing. Parent rights under IDEA, Part C include the following:

  • The right to a timely, multidisciplinary evaluation to determine eligibility and to develop the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP); the IFSP must be developed within 45 days of referral, if the child is eligible and the parents consent to services. Parents need to know what services are available and what timelines apply so that they can make well-informed decisions that are appropriate for their family’s needs at the time.
  • The right, if eligible under First Steps, to appropriate early intervention services for their child and family. Families need to know what their choices are so that they can make a well-informed decision. Information must be presented in a factual manner and in writing so that families can review the information privately.
  • The right to evaluation for eligibility, assessment(s) services, IFSP development, service coordination and procedural safeguards at no cost. Families need to understand what services are free and what services might incur a cost for the family.
  • The right to refuse evaluations for eligibility determination, assessment(s) service(s), and early intervention services.
  • The right to be invited to, attend and fully participate in all meetings in which a decision is expected to be made regarding a proposal to change the identification, evaluation, or placement of the child or the provision of services to the child/family. Effective meetings and meaningful decisions cannot be made without the active, informed involvement of families. The teams must be willing to work, within reason, to meet the needs of the family in terms of meeting time and location. Parents must be present when an IFSP is developed or evaluated, during eligibility determination (or re-determination) activities. If the parent wants to participate in other meetings (such as agency staff meetings where individual cases are being discussed; or planning meetings focused on scheduling and provider assignments), then provisions for parent participation apply.
  • The right to receive written timely notice before a change is made or refused in the identification, evaluation, or placement of the child, or in the provision of services to the child or family.
  • The right to receive services in the child’s natural environment to the extent appropriate.
  • The right to the confidentiality of personally identifiable information.
  • The right to review and, if appropriate, correct records; and
  • The right to an impartial hearing to resolve parent/legal guardian/provider disagreements.
  • Service coordinators must share information about procedural safeguards both verbally and in written form.
  • Assessment team members and on-going providers should know and understand procedural safeguards so that they can answer family questions. When telling families about procedural safeguards, repetition is important because the information is complex. Parents may need to hear and discuss their rights several times in order to fully understand them.

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

  • F9: Practitioners help families know and understand their rights.
  • L3: Leaders develop and implement policies, structures and practices that promote shared decision making with practitioners and families.
  • Indiana requires that written notice be given to parents at least ten days before eligibility determination, assessment, evaluation and service implementation or revision.
  • The service coordinator should explain to the family the purpose of the ten day written notice and encourage the family to ask questions.
  • Ten day written notice must be in the family's native language so that family members can fully understand their rights.
  • Assessment team members should direct all questions to the family and not the translator and should maintain eye contact with the family during all interactions.
  • The service coordinator must attempt contact by phone or letter if the family does not respond to appointments or therapy. The service coordinator must discuss the issues with the family, including their rights, and re-convene the IFSP team if necessary to develop a new plan. If these activities fail, the family must be given ten day prior written notice that the file will be closed on a specific date. 
  • The service coordinator should attempt to talk with the family about what is causing their inability to participate in First Steps. If other life circumstances have taken a priority, the service coordinator should offer resources and support to the family.

 The early intervention program must give parents advance written information about evaluations, services, or other activities affecting the child. Parents know their children best. The information that is shared with the program will make sure that the evaluations and services are right for the child and family.  The "paperwork" assures that the family gets all the details before any activity. (Hurth, J.L. and Goff, P. 2002)

  • If a parent does not consent, the service coordinator must talk with the parent or legal guardian to determine if he or she is fully aware of the nature of the assessment or other services that would be available and if he or she understands that the child will not be able to receive services unless consent is given.
  • The service coordinator should support families in any decisions they make regarding early intervention services.
  • The service coordinator will remind families that they have the right to decline a service even if they had accepted it at first, without jeopardizing other early intervention services.
  • In addition to discussing the family’s refusal to consent verbally, it is best practice to follow-up with a brief letter to confirm the discussion and give families information about what to do if they change their decision.
  • Explaining parental consent must be provided in ways that ensure the parent or legal guardian understands (e.g., in his or her native language, in written and verbal form).
  • Assessment team members should direct all questions to the family and not the translator and should maintain eye contact with the family during all interactions. The service coordinator should attempt to explain parental consent in multiple ways to increase the likelihood of understanding.
  • Service coordinators must get parental consent before releasing any information about the child from the EI record.
  • Families should be encouraged to develop and maintain their own EI Record throughout their participation in First Steps.
  • The SPOE including the service coordinator may not release any “third party” documents found in the child’s EI record.
  • Families may distribute any “third party” documents by requesting them directly from the provider.

In order for families to be fully informed of their rights and safeguards, they also must understand the early intervention system and their role as partners and decision-makers in the early intervention process. (Hurth, J.L. and Goff, P. 2002)

  • The service coordinator must inform the families that they have the right to review their child’s EI record (at the SPOE or at the provider agency) and if they make a request, First Steps must grant their request within 45 days or prior to an IFSP meeting.
  • If families ask to review their file, the service coordinator should facilitate this request and ask families if there is anything she or he can do to address their concerns. The service coordinator should attempt to facilitate discussion between IFSP team members if there is an issue related to the EI record that needs to be addressed.
  • The service coordinator must provide (or obtain) a reasonable explanation or interpretation of information in the EI record to the family at the family’s request.
  • The service coordinator should do everything possible to expedite a family’s request for explanation, keep all IFSP team members informed and provide appropriate and understandable information.
  • If a family requests that information in the EI record be altered or removed, the service coordinator must communicate the SPOE’s response within 45 days. 
  • The service coordinator should attempt to understand the underlying family concern driving the request and facilitate team discussions (including SPOE staff as needed) that may address this concern.
  • Anyone authorized to view EI records that is not a SPOE employee or a parent (e.g., state staff, QR contractors), must sign in when accessing files.     
  • It is best practice for everyone to sign in when accessing EI records, including SPOE staff, so that there is a complete record of who has been in the files, when the files have been accessed, and for what purpose.

The early intervention record is the family's record. The family can see anything in the early intervention program's records about the child and family. If the family does not understand the way records are written, the information in the child's record will be explained to the family in a way they understand. The family is a team member and we want them to have the same information as other team members. (Hurth, J.L. and Goff, P. 2002)

First Steps State Administration:
Bureau of Child Development Services
402 W. Washington Street W453, MS-51
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2739
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