The family-centeredness of Individualized Family Service Plans in Mississippi

Carmen Melissa Scarborough


Nationally recommended practices support the use of family-centered early intervention. Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (1997), contains provisions for including the families of infants and toddlers with disabilities or delays into intervention services. These provisions are due in part to the recognized need to enhance families' capabilities for meeting the needs of infants and toddlers with delays. To address the needs of infants and toddlers, it is stipulated in this legislation that Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs) be developed for infants and toddlers with disabilities or delays and their families. These IFSPs serve as the blueprint for mobilizing services that are designed to meet the needs of the child and his or her family. Researchers contend that because the IFSP theoretically guides services, there should be evidence of family-centeredness throughout the IFSP. This study was conducted to examine the level of family-centeredness of the IFSPs written in the state of Mississippi. The study also compared the levels of family-centeredness across four service delivery models of home-based, inclusive center-based, segregated center-based, and hospital/clinic-based. Additionally the nature and level of training of the service coordinators who were responsible for the plans were described. The results of this study indicated that the IFSPs from the four settings did not significantly differ on their levels of family-centeredness. All settings had higher ratings on the family-centered components of language and professional cohesion than on the projected outcomes and the level of family involvement. The results also indicated that (a) 75% of service coordinators in the state of Mississippi had bachelors degrees, (b) 47% had degrees in areas not commonly associated with early intervention, (c) 34% had less than 10 hours of training in IFSP development and (d) 50% had more than 50 hours of training in a family-centered philosophy.