Author: David Wolowitz & Michael O'Connor, Prairie State Legal Services
Last updated: March 2007
What Is It? The Early Intervention Services Systems Act is an Illinois law which creates a system to provide services to children under age 3 who have a developmental delay, a high probability of developmental delay, or who are at risk of having a developmental delay.
What Is Its Purpose? To provide early intervention services, such as therapy, counseling, and education, to young children and their families, in order to help the child achieve the highest possible degree of development.
Who Can Benefit? Illinois resident children under age 3 and their families.
The Early Intervention Services System Act (Act) creates a program to provide services to children under age 3 who have a developmental delay, or a condition which has a high probability of resulting in a developmental delay, or who are at risk of having a delay. This program is also called the "Child and Family Connections" program. The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) administers this program.
A federal court has ruled that this program is an entitlement program. As a result of that ruling, the State's policy is to provide early intervention services to all children who meet the eligibility requirements. IDHS is not permitted to wait list children or to refuse or defer services on the grounds that no space is available.
In order to qualify for early intervention services, the child must be a resident of Illinois, be under 36 months old, and have any of the following conditions:
•A disability due to "developmental delay" or
•A " physical or mental condition which has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay"; or
•Being "at risk of having substantial developmental delays due to a combination of serious factors."
(see definitions below).
The term "developmental delay" means a delay in one or more of the following areas of childhood development, as measured by appropriate diagnostic instruments and standard procedures: cognitive; physical, including vision and hearing; language, speech and communication; psycho-social; or self-help skills.
The term " physical or mental condition which has a high probability of developmental delay" means either: (1) a diagnosed medical disorder that is well-known to result in developmental outcomes within varying ranges of developmental disabilities; or
(2) a history of prenatal, or other early developmental events which are medically likely to have done damage to the developing central nervous system, and which increase the chances of developing a disability or delay.
The term "at risk of having substantial developmental delay" means the presence of at least 3 at risk conditions, plus a consensus of a multi-disciplinary team, based on clinical judgment, that the presence of these conditions warrants a risk of substantial developmental delay if early intervention services are not provided. A list of at risk conditions must be developed by the Illinois Interagency Council on Early Intervention.
Examples of "at risk" conditions:
(1) the mother is under 15 years of age;
(2) the mother abuses drugs or alcohol;
(3) a parent is developmentally disabled or has a severe emotional disturbance.
There are no income or asset limits for participation in this program.
In many cases, the child's doctor, hospital or an agency begins the application process by making a referral. Even without a referral, you can apply for Early Intervention services by calling (800) 323-4769. You will be given the phone number for the office in your area.
Screening. Upon receiving your application for services, IDHS will perform a screening on your child. They do this in order to determine if your child is eligible.
The screening consists of testing to determine if there is an impairment, along with interviews of family members and observation of the child. IDHS does not have to perform a screening if your child was referred by a doctor who has already determined that the child has a developmental disability, developmental delay or high probability of developmental delay.
If the screening indicates that your child is not eligible for early intervention services, IDHS must send you a written notice advising you of your right to file an appeal. The appeal procedure is explained in detail below.
If the screening indicates that your child is eligible and there is space available in the program, then IDHS performs a comprehensive assessment.
The assessment will evaluate your child's:
Developing a Service Plan
When the assessment is completed, IDHS develops an individualized family service plan (IFSP). The purpose of this plan is to summarize the results of the screening and assessment, and to identify the services needed by the child and the family. The IFSP is analogous to an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which is developed for a child over age 3 who is receiving special education services. (See the section of this Guidebook titled "Special Education and Related Services," in Chapter 5, Education.)
The IFSP is developed at a meeting attended by:
Contents of the Individualized Family Service Plan
The IFSP must contain the following information:
•A statement of your child's present levels of cognitive, physical, communicative, social, emotional, development and adaptive skills based on acceptable objective criteria.
•Whether any further assessment is needed.
•A description of the specific early intervention services that your child will get, including the location, the frequency and duration of the services.
•A statement of other services which are not provided by this program but which are needed by the child or family.
•A description of the parent's role in the early intervention process.
•The names of the staff who will provide the services, and the staff who will help you to get needed services from other agencies and persons.
•A statement explaining the goals, objectives, and expected outcomes for both the child and family.
What to Do If You Disagree With the Individualized Family Service Plan
You can state that you do not agree with any portion of the IFSP, including any recommendations to modify or reduce services. If you do, then only those portions that you agree with will be implemented until a resolution can be reached. The people who participated in developing the IFSP must meet again to discuss the areas of disagreement. If the issue is still not resolved, you may file an appeal using the procedures outlined below.
Updating the Individualized Family Service Plan
At least once a year, the parents and the other staff and professionals involved in the case must re-evaluate the IFS. IDHS will hold a meeting to review your child's progress and to decide whether further assessments are needed and whether the IFSP should be changed to better meet the child's needs.
Types of Services that Can Be Provided
This program can provide the following types of early intervention services:
•Social work, including counseling and home visits;
•Speech, language pathology and audiology services;
•Occupational or physical therapy;
•Service coordination services;
•Medical services for diagnostic and evaluation purposes;
•Health services that are needed to enable the child to benefit from other early intervention services;
•Assistive technology devices and services.
Costs Charged to the Family for Services
You will not be charged for any services if your household income is at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level, after all allowable deductions. If your income is above 185 percent of the federal poverty level, you may be charged for services on a sliding fee scale. The sliding scale takes into consideration your ability to pay and the additional costs related to caring for a child with a disability.
The sliding fee scale may be imposed for the following services:
No charges may be imposed for the following services:
The program regulations provide that no child or parent should ever be denied services based on an inability to pay.
Ending Services When Your Child Reaches Age Three (Transition)
When your child turns three, he or she is no longer eligible for Early Intervention Services. However, at age three your child becomes eligible to receive special education services from your local school district. (See the section of this Guidebook titled "Special Education and Related Services," in Chapter 5, Education.) Not every child who received early intervention services will need special education services.
Once your child reaches 30 months of age, the IFSP must outline the steps to be taken so that there will not be any unnecessary interruption in services for those children who continue to need them. To prepare for the transition from Early Intervention services to Special Education services, the early intervention staff must ask the special education staff of the local school district to attend a meeting so that they may share information about your child.
The early intervention staff also must prepare a written report that you can provide to your local school district. The report should include information about your child's strengths and needs, learning style, current goals and objectives, and an overall progress summary from the early intervention program with recommendations for future services needed by your child.
The early intervention staff is required to take necessary steps to make sure that the transition goes smoothly without an interruption in the services. Your child is entitled to continue receiving early intervention services under this program even after reaching age three until arrangements are made for the child to begin receiving services elsewhere.
The Right to an Appeal
If IDHS decides that your child is ineligible following the screening, you are entitled to file an appeal. You also are entitled to file an appeal if you are already a participant in the program and the program decides to change, reduce, or end your child's services.
Advance Notice to Any Change in Early Intervention Services
You are entitled to receive a written notice at least 10 days in advance of any proposed change, reduction or termination of services. That notice also must inform you of your right to file an appeal. If you file an appeal, the services provided to your child cannot be changed while the appeal is pending.
Filing an Appeal
If you appeal, it must be in writing and you must file it with the Illinois Department of Human Services, at Hearing and Appeals Unit, 401 Stratton Building, Springfield IL 62765. You must file the appeal within 10 days of the date of the notice of change in services, or within 10 days of the notice that your initial application for services has been denied.
Upon receiving your appeal, IDHS will send you a notice which informs you of the right to have a hearing on your appeal. If you want a hearing, you must make a request in writing within 10 days after the date you receive the notice.
A pre-appeal conference is a meeting between the parties for the purpose of trying to reach an agreement. Even if an agreement cannot be reached, the conference can be useful for allowing both parties to obtain a better understanding of the facts.
If you want a pre-hearing conference, you should ask for one. Your request for a conference must be made in writing no less than 72 hours before the scheduled date of the hearing. The request should be sent to the Hearings and Appeals Unit at the address given above. Even if you do not request a conference, one may be scheduled at the request of the Department of Human Services.
If the case is not resolved at a pre-hearing conference, then IDHS will hold an appeal hearing. A hearing officer appointed by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) will conduct the hearing. The hearing will be held at the HFS office nearest your home.
At the hearing, you may be represented by any person of your choice, including an attorney. You may also represent yourself. At the hearing, you have the following rights:
Within 30 days of the date of your request for the hearing, the hearing officer must issue a written decision which contains his or her findings of facts and conclusions.
Appealing the Hearing Officer's Decision
You may request that the Secretary of IDHS review of the hearing officer's decision. You must file your request for review no more than 20 days after the date of the hearing officer's decision.
Upon receiving your request for review, the Secretary will review the hearing officer's decision and all of the documents considered at the hearing. Within 15 days of your request, the Secretary will issue a written decision either upholding or reversing the hearing officer's decision.
Lawsuit for Judicial Review
If the Secretary rules against you, you may file a lawsuit in the Illinois Circuit Court. You must file this lawsuit no later than 35 days from the date that the decision was issued.
You or your lawyer will have the opportunity to make written and oral arguments in support of your case. The judge will then decide whether the hearing officer fairly considered the facts and properly applied the law. The judge can approve your claim, deny your claim, or remand your case to the Department of Human Services to be reevaluated in accordance with the judge's instructions.
The Early Intervention Website is located at http://www.state.il.us/agency/dhs/earlyint/ei01parent.html
Statutes and Regulations
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