Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 5, Lesson 3
Strong collaborative relationships are built upon mutual trust and respect. Once trust and respect are established, collaborative partners can work effectively during problem solving and goal setting. When differences and disagreements occur, they can be pro-actively addressed. Christenson (2001) states "...trust building creates a climate that fosters participation and a positive working partnership" (p. 23). Trust building doesn't occur by chance or quickly; however, it develops over time through actions that promote and support it. Trust building should be the responsibility of all parties involved. This may be difficult if professionals are wary about working with each other or there has been animosity in the past between agencies.
One way to formalize the process of collaboration is through the development of interagency agreements. Ideally these agreements will be among all the agencies and organizations in a community that work with a particular population. In the case of Early Steps, that will be children birth to three, who have disabilities, and their families as well as sending and receiving programs. The critical partners for collaboration listed in the beginning of the lesson are some of the entities that should participate in an interagency agreement.
Why have interagency agreements? First of all they are mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. One of the important aspects of the law has to do with something called "non-supplanting" of funds. In other words, the drafters of the legislation wanted to ensure that the Part C early intervention dollars were not used to supplant services and funding that was already in place and provided by other public agencies. An example might be that the local Association for Retarded Citizens provides funding for respite care, Early Head Start provides inclusive center-based services, and Part C pays for the ITDS to do home visiting in the Primary Service Provider model. Because there is the awareness that families probably need an array of services from many different agencies, interagency agreements are required to ensure that multiple funding sources are put into play so that families are not denied services for which they are eligible.
Interagency agreements can be effective roadmaps to accessing services. They should be viewed as part of the process of collaboration and should change and evolve as funding sources and agencies enter and leave the system. Interagency agreements can cover specific components of early intervention such as transition of service provision, or they can be written to address all of the components of the system. Families of young children with disabilities will experience a transition of services among providers in the Part C system (from the hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to Early Steps services, for instance) and between the Part C and the Sec. 619 Pre-K programs for children with disabilities. Effective agreements result in a smooth process for families and strong collegial relationships among agencies.
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