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Individualized Family Service Plan

The Individualized Family Service Plan — the “IFSP” — is the heart of early intervention. A written plan, called an IFSP, is developed by a team to record the family’s outcomes for themselves and their child. It lists the early intervention services that will best help reach those outcomes and describes when, where, and how those services will be delivered. It will be a map to guide you and the professionals working with you.

The IFSP should be the result of cooperative planning between you and the team of other people who are learning about your child. You will work together with professionals to find what you need to help your family reach your goals.

The purpose of the IFSP meeting is to talk about, as a team, all important information, concerns, and resources. Your child’s evaluation and assessment results will be discussed as well as the results of the family needs assessment. Other topics will include outcomes for your child and family, what services are needed, and how the services will be provided.

The IFSP team will talk about your child’s strengths and needs. What are the concerns? What is your child’s present level of development? You will share your ideas with the team. The people at the meeting will also talk about what your child can do. These are his or her strengths. Be sure to tell them what you think your child does well!

Here’s what should happen:

  • Your family’s strengths and resources will be used as building blocks.
  • You will be asked for your ideas, concerns, and priorities.
  • You will be invited to meetings.
  • You will know who to call for help.
  • Your priorities, beliefs, and values will be honored.
  • Your hopes will be encouraged.

An IFSP is:

  • Both a process and a document
  • A plan of services and supports
  • A help for families and children in their natural daily environments

Ready … Set … Go!

To prepare for the IFSP meeting, the service coordinator will talk with you about who you would like to attend the meeting, what the agenda will be, and the meeting time and location. The coordinator will also make arrangements for the meeting and notify all team members in writing.

Meetings should be at a time and a place that is convenient for you. If it is scheduled at a time that is not good for you, let the coordinator know so it can be re-scheduled. There also might be more than one meeting.

In order to develop a good IFSP, you and other members of the team will need to share information about your child. As the parent, you will need to think about:

  • What you want your child to learn
  • What help he or she needs
  • Other areas in which your child and family may need support (for example, sibling concerns or how to talk to other family members about your child’s disability)
  • Who you would like on the IFSP team

Think about these things carefully. Is there anything that the team should know before the IFSP meeting? Call the coordinator or your contact person and let him or her know your thoughts.

Who Will Be There?

There will be a meeting to plan the IFSP, and you should be there. Besides you, the team must include the service coordinator and at least one person who was involved in doing the evaluation. You may invite other people to the meeting who know your child or could help decide what services would help him or her. They may include:

  • Child care provider
  • Doctor or nurse
  • Therapist
  • Personal care attendant
  • Early Head Start teacher
  • Advocate
  • Others

Who comes to the meeting depends on what your child and your family needs and on whom you want to attend. This should be discussed with your coordinator. Not all agencies need to be represented at every meeting.

You can suggest other people who would be helpful in planning for your child and know what he or she needs. It could be someone who cares for your child, another family member, a friend, or a professional with experience in working with your child’s disability or cultural background.

If you are more comfortable with a smaller number of people at the meeting, share your preferences with the coordinator.

Outcomes: Desired Changes for My Child and Family

Outcomes describe changes desired by your family. You and the team will talk about what you hope your child will accomplish. Outcomes are always identified and written before the discussion about services. You can also identify outcomes for your family. The team will write these down. You will put them in the order of what is most important. Here is what an outcome could look like: “Sam will learn to sit up so that he can...”

Outcomes should describe the family routine or activity during which the child and family will work on reaching the outcome.

Objectives: How We Will Reach the Outcome

You and other team members will list at least two objectives for each outcome. Objectives are steps or ways of reaching outcomes. Here’s what objectives could look like:

  • “Mrs. Brown will be taught three exercises that will strengthen Sam’s back muscles by May 1.”
  • “Sam will learn to balance in a sitting position while someone holds his hands by June 15.”


After you decide on the outcomes and objectives, you will talk about what kinds of services could help your child do these things. You will talk about different people who could help make the outcomes and objectives happen. Then you and the team will pick people to work with your child. You should be able to have services that fit your values, beliefs, and desired outcomes for your child.

For example, in order to teach Sam to sit up, the team decided to have a physical therapist work with Sam and his mother at their home once a week. The therapist will teach his mother ways to help Sam sit up.

In Minnesota, early intervention services are provided at no cost to families with eligible children.

Early intervention services are designed to meet the developmental needs of an infant or toddler with a disability or developmental delays and the needs of the family to assist in the child’s development. These can include:

  • Assistive technology devices and services
  • Audiology
  • Family training, counseling, and home visits
  • Health services
  • Medical services for diagnosis and evaluation
  • Nursing services
  • Nutrition services
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Psychological services
  • Service coordination services
  • Sign language and cued language services
  • Social work services
  • Speech-language pathology
  • Transportation and related costs
  • Vision services

A child may need more than one service. For instance, in addition to physical therapy, Sam may also need assistive technology. Because he has difficulty using his hands to play, he may need switch-activated toys. Services could include providing toys for the family to use, connecting the family to resources for modifying toys, and teaching Sam how to play with these toys.

Interagency cooperation means agencies will work together to pay for the services children need. The school must ensure that early intervention services are provided at no cost to parents. The school may access the child’s private insurance and Medicaid if parents would not incur a financial cost and parents agree to allow the education agency to access their insurance. Health and human services do not fund special education services, but they may fund other available services.

Services for your child need to be provided in places where other children would be at the same age. This is called the natural environment or the least restrictive environment once your child turns 3. Natural environments include the home or wherever your child is during the day, such as child care. Whenever appropriate, your child should have contact with typically developing children of his or her age.

Services can be delivered in a variety of settings. The setting must be appropriate to meet the needs of the child. Most services for children ages birth through 2 are provided in your home (called home-based) or at child care. Usually beginning at age 3, children receive services in center-based early childhood special education (ECSE) classrooms or in community-based programs, such as a preschool or Head Start.

If your child needs to be in the hospital for a long time, you may want to ask that services be provided there if appropriate.

What Must Be in the IFSP?

  • Information about your child‘s developmental status or present levels of development
  • Family information (with family consent)
  • Outcomes your child and family will achieve and how progress will be measured
  • Specific services to meet the needs of the child and family
  • Projected start date of services
  • Length of each session
  • Frequency (number of days or sessions)
  • Intensity (individual or group setting)
  • Method (how services will be delivered: direct, indirect, consultative, etc.)
  • Location (statement of natural environments in which services will be provided)
  • Anticipated duration of the service (usually one year)
  • Funding source if other than the school
  • Payment arrangements, if any
  • Service coordinator‘s name
  • Transition planning activities
  • Required signatures (parents and authorized persons for agencies providing services)

In Minnesota, early intervention services are provided in multiple ways. Direct services are given by a teacher or a related professional and provide instruction given to the child or family. Consultative services are provided by a teacher or related-services professional to another teacher, related-services professional, or child care provider. Consultative services include cooperative planning and modification and adaptation of materials, equipment, or curriculum. It can also include direct child contact to monitor, observe, and follow up. In a transdisciplinary model of services, the primary service provider also has available a team of other professionals who can be called upon to discuss your child‘s developmental progress and appropriate services when needed. In a multidisciplinary model of services, two providers may make joint visits to the family.

You must be offered a choice of programs and services for your child. If the appropriate choice does not exist, one must be created. You do not need to accept inappropriate services or no services because the appropriate choice is not available.

Each family‘s service plan should be one-of-a-kind created to meet your family‘s needs and wishes. You can choose to use some services offered and refuse others.

The team will then set timelines. When can you expect services to start? How often and where will they be delivered? How long will they last? When does the team hope your child and family can achieve the outcomes? When will your team meet again to review the plan? Services must begin within 30 days of you signing the IFSP.

It is important to remember that early intervention services are designed to show families and caregivers how to use learning opportunities that occur during daily routines and activities to teach a child a new skill.

Service Coordination

You will also be assigned a service coordinator. The service coordinator may also be your primary service provider. He or she will keep the IFSP process flowing smoothly by arranging meetings and communicating with team members. He or she will help you locate community resources, information, and other services to help your family and your child. You can call your service coordinator with questions or problems.

The service coordinator assists and enables the child and family to receive the rights, procedural safeguards, and services authorized under the state early intervention program.

After the Meeting

After the meeting, you will be sent a copy of the IFSP, Prior Written Notice and parent consent form. You will have 14 calendar days to sign and return the parent consent form. You decide whether you want the services outlined in the IFSP. If you agree, you will sign the IFSP and the parent consent form, and the services will begin.

If you are not happy with the plan, you should indicate on the parent consent form that you disagree with the plan and are requesting a meeting to discuss your concerns. You can also call or write to your service coordinator about your concerns. Always keep a copy of any letters you send. See “Resolving Differences” in this book for more information.

IFSP Annual Evaluation and Periodic Review

The services you agree to will start once you sign the IFSP. The team evaluates the IFSP once a year. This is sometimes called an annual evaluation.

Also, a periodic review must be done every six months (or more often if needed). Periodic reviews are done by the family and the service coordinator or by the team. The purpose of the periodic review is to look at the progress made toward the outcomes. You will help decide whether any changes need to be made in outcomes or services.

The service coordinator will schedule the annual evaluation and periodic review and notify the team members about these meetings in writing.

Transition Planning at 3

Transition planning should begin at least 90 days before your child‘s third birthday, or, at the team‘s discretion, up to six months before your child‘s third birthday. This is to help prepare for a smooth move from an early intervention program to a preschool or other community program. If your child qualifies, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) signed by the parents must be in place by your child‘s third birthday.

When a child turns 3, all special education and related services must be provided in the least restrictive environment (LRE) possible. In planning for the child‘s transition to preschool, the team should consider whether or not a child could make appropriate progress in an inclusive environment if the appropriate supports and services were provided. Examples of possible preschool programs include public or private preschools and Head Start centers. The team must justify any decision to provide educational services in a segregated setting.

The IFSP must contain a transition plan to help the child and family transition from Part C services. This could be a separate page or it may be written as transition goals.

Be a Good Team Member

Attend all the meetings about your child.

Learn more about your child‘s disability.

Be a good listener. Ask questions. Listen to what other people say about your child.

Share what you know about your child. You are an expert about your child! Tell the team what he likes or does not like, the ways he learns best, and what he does well.

When you don‘t agree, talk about it. Look for compromise in ways that are all right for your child and family.

Know your rights.

Keep good records of all meetings and conversations. Date them.

Put requests in writing if you can, and keep copies.

IFSP: Not Written in Stone

You can request to change the IFSP even after you sign it. The IFSP can be revised any time there is a need to do so. The IFSP should be flexible enough to change with your child.

If things aren‘t working out, call your service coordinator. Tell him or her what is wrong, and talk about your concerns. A team meeting can be held to make formal additions or changes to the IFSP document.

Think about these things before you meet:

  • Is my child making progress?
  • Would changes make things better?
  • What changes can I suggest?

For information on solving problems, see “Resolving Differences” in this booklet.

Please note:

At age 3, families in Minnesota who are receiving services from two or more public agencies may request an interagency services planning meeting to coordinate those services. The purpose of the meeting is to continue the interagency planning process beyond the age of 3. Children can continue to receive services under the category of developmental delay until age 7.

This information and more can be found within:

Families are Important! An Early Childhood Guidebook for Families of Young Children

Call to order - $7 or free to Minnesota parents of children and young adults with disabilities.