Over fifty percent (50%) of children in the custody of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (Cabinet/CHFS) are receiving special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA is a federal law that ensures services to children with disabilities. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to eligible infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities.
The Early Intervention Program, created by IDEA, is a program for children from birth to their third (3rd) birthday who are experiencing developmental delays, or who have a physical or mental condition with a high probability the condition will result in a delay. Services for eligible children are explained in an individualized family service plan (IFSP) developed collaboratively by the family, the evaluator, and early intervention professionals.
An IFSP is a written plan for providing early intervention services to eligible children. The plan is based on a First Steps evaluation and assessment completed following the initial referral. A meeting to develop the initial IFSP is conducted within forty-five (45) working days of the completed assessment. IFSPs are reviewed at least every six (6) months but may be held more frequently as needed or at the family’s request.
IFSP services are administered through First Steps. First Steps is a statewide early intervention program that provides services to children with developmental disabilities. This program offers comprehensive services through a variety of community agencies and is administered by the Department for Public Health (DPH) in the Cabinet.
Part B of IDEA establishes a federal entitlement for eligible children age three (3) through twenty-one (21) with disabilities to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). It also establishes a federal framework for states to identify and evaluate children with suspected disabilities to provide services to eligible children. The law identifies a child’s parent as an equal and key participant in their child’s education and establishes procedural safeguards to ensure that all parents are included in the educational decision-making process. The law requires school districts to designate a multidisciplinary team to conduct comprehensive evaluations of children and develop an individualized education plan (IEP) for those who are eligible for services. An IEP is a child specific, written plan of action that describes the individualized services, modifications, and accommodations to be provided to a child to ensure successful involvement in the general education curriculum.