What is an IFSP?

The IFSP- the Individualized Family Service Plan- is a written plan that is developed for an eligible infant or toddler (up to his third birthday) who has a developmental delay or a disability. It outlines all of the services or interventions that your child and family will receive. (An IEP– Individualized Education Plan- is for children ages 3 and up.)

How do you know if your child qualifies for services?

In the United States, we have a federal law that is specifically geared to helping babies and children with delays or disabilities. Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a $436 million program administered by states that serves infants and toddlers with developmental delays or who have diagnosed conditions with high probabilities of resulting in developmental delays. Please see my prior posts where I explain how to have your child (birth to age 3 or ages 3 – 21) evaluated for free if you suspect that he has a delay or problem.

Once your child has been evaluated and the team (which includes parents!) has met and discussed the results of the testing, you will learn if your child is considered eligible for services.  If he is, the next step is to develop the IFSP.

What’s in an IFSP?

The IFSP is specific to your child’s and family’s needs. The former National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities says “The best way to support children and meet their needs is to support and build upon the individual strengths of their family. So, the IFSP is a whole family plan with the parents as major contributors in its development.”

On CPIR’s website, there is a great explanation of the IFSP  (just scroll down the page). This article is so good, that it would be silly for me to change a word of it. This easy to read article will tell you:
• who qualifies for services –  (developmental delays or disabilities),
• the evaluation and assessment process, and writing the IFSP
• how and where services may be delivered,
• who pays for the services.

It also discusses the time frame (45 days) of how long is allowed from the initial referral to the written IFSP for an eligible child.

What does an IFSP look like?

Here you can find detailed information about writing an IFSP as well as a sample IFSP.  You will see that it even has a section on transitioning from baby and toddler services to programs available for children ages 3 and up.

Another place to go for more information is the National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (NECTAC).  They have an excellent flow chart  of the IFSP process and even a referral to a video  that helps families understand the process. They also have a link to examples of IFSP forms for many states.

Don’t delay with delays

In short, the IFSP is a detailed, personalized plan just for your baby/toddler and family. If your child is delayed in reaching developmental milestones or has a disability, don’t delay. Early intervention is so important! Getting help early is a gift that you can give your child that has benefits that will last a lifetime.

Note: This post is part of the new weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It appears every Wednesday, and was started on January 16, 2013. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. Or view the Table of Contents of all posts in the series. As always, we welcome your comments and input.



  • comment-avatar
    Donna Howle February 27, 2013

    Our daughter was born at 28 weeks. Released from the hospital what would have been 36 weeks. She had IVH grade IV. Her ped did not do any referrals for therapy. She had to have shunt replaced at 11 months. Vanderbilt Hospital said her ped should have referred her for therapy immediately, whether suspecting need or not. She has CP and is now 11. Wears braces and no longer has to use a walker as of this year. We often wonder how much further she would have been if she had started therapy sooner. No cognative problemsI think peds need to be more informed on needs…

  • comment-avatar
    Amy Carter February 27, 2013

    We have a great program in our city, Help Me Grow, that has been with us since our 31 weeker came home from the NICU. Our daughter was 1lb,15oz and is showing some delays at 13 months old and we have an IFSP. It’s great to see her meet some of the goals we have set for her. I truly appreciate this program and feel everyone who is eligible needs to take advantage of it.

  • comment-avatar

    Hi Donna,
    Thanks for your comment. Please don’t beat yourself up – hindsight is always 20-20…right? The take-home message from your situation is that parents don’t need a pediatrician or anyone else to make the referral for an early intervention evaluation. Parents can make the call themselves (please see my prior post that tells you how to do it: http://newsmomsneed.marchofdimes.com/?p=12857) Let’s keep passing the word on – it is so important to know that you don’t have to wait for someone else to make a call when you suspect a problem or delay. And, the evaluation is free.

    I hope your daughter continues to do well.

    March of Dimes

  • comment-avatar

    Hi Amy,

    Thank you for your comment. I am so glad to learn that your little one is benefitting from her early intervention program. Just remember that parents are partners in the IFSP process – it is about the family as well as the child.

    I hope your daugher continues to make good strides. Please keep us posted!

    March of Dimes

  • comment-avatar

    This IFS is such a great government plan, i wish we could see such things in Greece as well, where we hope it is still a civilized country.

    Unfortunately our toddlers are not able to receive this kind of treatment. On the contrary!

    Thanks for your informative post Barbara!