In a family-centered system, establishing a positive relationship with the family provides the foundation for all that is to come. This begins at Intake/First Contacts. The critical role that families play in the system is reflected in the following passage from the Early Steps Service Delivery Policy and Guidance Paper
First Contacts – Families share their concerns related to their child's development, provide the team with information regarding their current schedule and what is working well at home, answer questions they are comfortable answering, and share any additional information they feel the team needs to have a holistic, ecological view of their family. During this time, families also receive information about Early Steps and complete required paperwork (p.26).
Stressing that early intervention is indeed about the family is part of the First Contacts activities and the information sharing period as stated in this section of the guidance paper:
The purpose of gathering information is to learn more about the child's and family's background, interests, strengths, needs, and activities within the family, community, and for some children, early care and education settings (Dunst & Bruder, 1999). During this exchange, the family is given the opportunity to share their experiences with their child, as well as previous medical, health, or developmental evaluation information, describe their concerns and priorities, and share information about their child's development. The information obtained will be used in preparation for evaluation and assessment and development of the IFSP. In addition, the family receives information about Part C and the family-centered focus of Early Steps. It is important to gain an understanding of the family's perception of early intervention and discuss any misperceptions (p.27-8).
There is no specific requirement in Early Steps to develop an ecomap with the family. It is at the discretion of each Local Early Steps to determine the tools/techniques used during First Contacts. However, it is implicit that gathering the type of information culminating from an ecomap is part of First Contacts as reflected in this passage from the guidance paper: The process of gathering information should be as conversational and noninvasive as possible. To do this, the person gathering the information should create a climate in which families feels free to talk about their child and family. The types of information gathered must be with the concurrence of the family and should include the following:
- the child's and family's strengths and interests
- settings where the child and family live and play (family, community, and child care or preschool settings), and the people who are involved
- settings in which the family would like for their child to participate if he or she did not have a developmental disability or delay
- the family's concerns and priorities for the child's participation in family and community life, and early care and education settings
- the family's need for informational, emotional, and material supports (McWilliam & Scott, 2001) (p.28)