Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 5, Lesson 1
Family and Community Partnerships in Policy and Regulation
In 1975 the first piece of major federal legislation related to special education was written. The legislation contained language addressing the need for family involvement. With every re-authorization of the law since then, the language regarding family involvement has become more defined and strengthened the role of families. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Amendments of 1997 significantly increased the role of families as partners by emphasizing their role in planning and coordination of services for children with disabilities (Reyes, 1999; Sileo, Sileo & Prater, 1998; IDEA, 1997). It not only strengthened families' involvement but also stressed the many levels needed for their involvement, including families viewed as partners with professionals. Family participation is viewed by policy makers as crucial in order to develop appropriate interventions and services for children as well as to achieve full implementation of the law.
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is another significant piece of legislation that has strengthened the role of families in services and education. This legislation furthers the commitment to family-professional partnerships and contains many requirements for school-family communication and engagement leading to a deeper, more meaningful collaboration between families and professionals.
The role of families is also clearly articulated in Florida's Early Steps system (Department of Health, 2005) In the section titled "Key Role of Families", the document states, "Families play a key role in the successful implementation of the new Early Steps service delivery system." In further explaining this role, the document emphasizes "...the important role families play as a member of the team throughout the process" (p. 26).
The Early Steps service delivery system has shifted the focus from providing services primarily to the child to involving and supporting families and other caregivers in services provided within the context of everyday routines, activities, and places. Within this context, families and caregivers play an enhanced role as partners with professionals working together to meet the child's developmental needs and achieve desired outcomes. The family is an active participant on the early intervention team.
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