IFSP Lawyers in Los Angeles
We Can Assist with an Individual Family Service Plan
We’ve Been Handling Special Needs Law for Over 20 Years
If you have a school-aged child with special needs, the local school district will work with you to develop an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). But what if you have an infant or toddler with special needs? Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the families of young children with developmental disabilities are entitled to an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP).
The key word in IFSP is “family.” The best way to meet the needs of these infants and toddlers is through the support of their family, which is the main difference between an IEP and an IFSP. While there are some provisions for the family in an IEP, the main focus is more on the individual child.
In plain language, an IFSP acts as a form of early intervention into a disabled child’s life, with the goal of getting them ready for their future special education. If you think your child may be in need of an IFSP, you probably have a million questions. To get some answers, contact the compassionate and experienced team at Woodsmall Law Group for a free consultation by dialing (626) 440-0028.
What Is an IFSP?
An IFSP is basically a written blueprint that maps out the services a child will receive between birth and age 3, and how those services will be administered. It describes the child’s current levels of functioning, the specific needs of the child in terms of improving, and his or her treatment goals.
While IDEA is a federal law, individual states implement their own IFSP programs. In California, IFSPs are handled by the state’s Department of Developmental Services in what is called the Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities. Early intervention programs are handled by local regional centers.
According to the California Department of Developmental Services, children are eligible for an IFSP if:
- They are less than 36 months old, and they possess a developmental delay of at least 33% in one or more of the following areas:
- Social or emotional
- Motor development, including hearing and vision
- They are less than 36 months old, and they have an established risk of, and a high chance of developing, an intellectual disability or developmental delay, even if it is not recognizable at the time of diagnosis.
- They are less than 36 months old, have not been evaluated, but medical or other records show one or more developmental areas is in delay.
The following is a list of services available with an IFSP. However, IDEA does not prohibit an IFSP from providing another type of service, as long as a need is shown in the child’s assessments.
- Hearing and vision services to determine disability.
- Assistive technology: devices like cochlear implants, pacemakers, colostomy bags, etc.
- Occupational and physical therapy.
- Speech and language therapy.
- Special education services.
- Medical and nursing services.
- Nutritional services.
- Family training, counseling, and home visits.
- Psychological and social work services.
- Transportation to enable the child and family to receive IFSP services.
- Respite care and other types of family support.
- Case management.
- Other related health services.
Who Can Make an IFSP Referral?
The process of obtaining an IFSP begins with a referral. A referral is a verbal or written request made to a regional center that describes a child’s needs and requests early intervention services. Referrals can be made by parents or guardians, hospitals (including prenatal and postnatal care facilities), doctors, childcare programs, school districts, public health facilities, staff in the child welfare system, family homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, other social service agencies, and other health care providers.
Who Draws Up an IFSP?
Writing an IFSP is a team effort, which will include:
- The parent/s or guardian/s of the child (always).
- Other family members, if requested by a parent or guardian.
- The child’s physician/s, psychiatrist, behavioralist, therapist, social worker, etc.
- Advocate for the family, such as an attorney, if requested by a parent or guardian.
- The IFSP service coordinator.
- The party or parties directly involved in conducting evaluating and assessing the child and family.
- Party or parties providing the IFSP services.
How Will I Pay for These Services?
Certain early intervention services are free in all states, including California. You can use public or private insurance policies to help pay for services, and you may be charged on a sliding scale according to your income. However, you cannot be denied necessary services if you can’t afford to pay for them. Payment policies are frequently changing, so you may need to ask your IFSP case manager about the current policy.
Transitioning to an IEP
Roughly 6 months before your child turns 3-years-old, you may begin preparing to transition them from the IFSP to an IEP. Not all children transition, however, as the further evaluation and development may demonstrate that they will not require the services and support of an IEP. But it is important to prepare for the possibility that your child will need long-term assistance with his or her disability in order for them to enjoy a healthy and active childhood and adulthood.
Up until the age of 3, the rules and regulations of IDEA are focused on helping a child’s family provide for his or her needs, thus making it “family-focused.” In contrast, the IEP is “child-focused,” meaning the services and support provided by the IEP will largely adhere to your child’s development outside the home and in the classroom. The IEP will continually grow with your child to meet their needs and development through pre-school and kindergarten to high school and up until they turn 21-years-old. The IEP will outline the specific goals and needs for your child’s education and the services provided by the school district, which will be updated annually.
Planning and implementing an IEP will not be on your shoulders alone. You will have an IEP team made up of your child, yourself, your child’s other guardian or parent, a representative of the school district, a special education teacher, your child’s teacher or teachers, and other professionals who may provide additional support and insight into your child’s needs. Together you will work to develop a long-term plan for your child’s development and evaluate what services and supports he or she will need to make the most of their education. You and your child have several rights as outlined by IDEA and FAPE, including the right to independent evaluations, mediation with your child’s IEP team over disputes, and the right to appeal when the team denies the request a service or support. Ultimately, you will want to have the most collaborative and cordial relationship with the IEP team, but there are instances where you may need an experienced special needs attorney to step in and ensure you and your child’s legal rights are protected.
The Role of an IFSP Attorney
In some situations, parents find themselves unable to access the necessary supports and services for their developing child, which may lead to disputes with an Early Intervention Program. Hopefully, these disputes can be handled through formal meetings and discussions about how the IFSP can better serve your child’s needs, but there are situations where you may need the aid of a special education attorney. The rules and regulations of IDEA and FAPE are complex, and most parents have difficulty fully understanding what rights are owed to their children under the law.
A special education attorney can help you navigate the complex laws of the California education system, including how to respond to disagreements about an IFSP. While we can certainly file a lawsuit against an Early Intervention Program or a school district if there are disputes about transitioning from an IFSP to an IEP, there are other less combative steps an attorney can take to ensure your child’s right to an education is upheld. Among the services an IFSP attorney can provide is representation in a due process hearing, mediation with administrators, assistance with scheduling independent evaluations, reviewing IFSPs and IEPs, explaining whether or not a service or support is appropriate for your child, and legal advice throughout your child’s development. If, at any point, the Early Intervention Program brings their own attorney into the planning process of an IFSP, you will definitely want to have your own at your side to ensure your rights are protected. At the end of the day, our duty to protect your child’s rights to an education under state and federal law.
What Is the First Step?
Once you’ve conferred with a medical professional, you’ll want to contact an experienced IFSP attorney. Early intervention policies and be complex and confusing but enlisting an advocate who has helped many other families in your situation will help the process go much more smoothly. The compassionate legal team at the Pasadena office of Woodsmall Law Group can help you do what’s best for your child, you, and the rest of your family. Call us for a free case evaluation at (626) 440-0028.