The 10 points listed below will explain Parents’ Rights in the First Steps system in Indiana.
The Right to an Evaluation
Eligibility in First Steps is based on the gathering of lots of important and relevant
papers and information that help give a full and clear picture of your child’s development. A ‘multidisciplinary team’ of professionals representing at least two different areas
of expertise does the evaluation. Evaluations, or any tests, should always be
done in your child’s native language. No one test can be used to determine
whether or not your child is eligible. You also have the right for your child
to have regular and ongoing evaluations of your child’s strengths, skill levels, progress, and needs.
The evaluation should be completed within 45 days from the time your child is referred
to First Steps.
The Right to a Coordinated Plan
Also within 45 days from the time your child is referred, your service coordinator and
those people who will make up your child’s multi-disciplinary team (including you) should come together to create
your child’s Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). This plan
is the map for your child’s services for the coming year and includes your child’s and your family’s strengths,
priorities, needs, and the services that will help meet those identified needs, including how much service, when it will take
place, where, and who will provide the service. It includes the outcomes you would like to see your child achieve. The IFSP
is reviewed at least every 6 months and is rewritten every year and you are an important part of that review process.
The Right to Consent
The right to give consent or permission must always be obtained, in writing before an evaluation
or assessment can be done and before services can be started or stopped. Parents
can choose not to give consent for any particular service without jeopardizing any other services. Consent can be revoked, or stopped at any time as well.
The Right to Prior Notice
Nobody likes major
surprises and in First Steps, the rules have been created to see that you have no major surprises. Before any service can be started, stopped, or changed, parents have the right to have 10 days notice,
in writing. These notices should also explain your rights and give details for
the decisions that are being suggested. The notice should be in your native language
and be clearly explained to you.
The Right to Privacy
There are several things that protect your privacy. One
is that, it’s just the right thing to do. It is unethical for any service
provider to share information about you with anyone without your permission. The
other protection you have is legal. The Family Education Right to Privacy
Act (FERPA) is a law that says any personal information about you cannot be shared with another person or agency or program
without you permission. While it’s very important that service providers
be able to work with your child’s other providers and this requires that they talk together, you must first give your permission for them to do so. The providers must contact you, explain the situation, and ask for your written permission. Several of the ‘release of information’ forms that you signed at the beginning of the program give providers the right
to talk together to best plan for meeting your child’s needs. Remember
that their conversations are strictly professional and do not discuss your personal issues.
The Right to Review Records
Every child enrolled in First Steps has an official Early Intervention
Record (sometimes called the SPOE Chart) that is kept in the System Point of Entry (SPOE) office. Parents have the right to inspect, review, and amend their child’s record. Parents also have the
right to have a copy of this official record. Every SPOE filing cabinet must
show a list of the people who have access to files and every individual record contains a listing of those providers who have
read the files. Records are not exchanged or sent to another agency without a
parent’s informed, written permission. If a parent disagrees with something
that is in the file, they may request that this information be changed or removed. If
the provider does not agree that this information should be removed or changed, parents have the right to request an impartial
hearing be scheduled to come to an agreement.
The Right to Participate
No one knows your
child better than you do and no one is a more important member of your child’s multi-disciplinary team than you are. Every parent has the right to be a full and equal partner in planning their child’s
services, the delivery of those services and in the evaluation of those services. Parents
are such an important part of this process that meetings should never take place without their being there.
The Right to Understand
Every parent has the right to know exactly what is going on with their child’s service plan and
the types of services their child is receiving. In order for this to occur, parents
need information to be shared with them in methods that are easy to understand. Information
should take into account a parent’s native language and any cultural issues that might be present. First Steps does not discriminate based on race, ethnic background, religion, disability,
Right to Have an Advocate
The First Steps process can seem overwhelming and confusing, especially in the beginning. It’s important for parents to feel comfortable while they’re learning the new system and comfortable
as time goes on and their child participates. For this reason, parents are encouraged
to build their own support system through friends, family members, and other parents who have participated in the program
and other service providers. This support team can be a real help to families
during any part of the First Steps process.
Right to Disagree
Not every part of any service delivery system will make families happy.
Sometimes, parents and providers may disagree on an issue. If this happens,
parents have the right to seek help in resolving any issue. As a rule, parents
should first discuss any difficulty with their child’s service coordinator. If
this doesn’t work, there are other avenues of complaint, all the way up to a complaint filed at the state level. There are parent support services available to help parents understand the complaint
More Information, contact the First Steps System Point of Entry at
(812) 231-8337 or toll free at 1-877-860-0413.