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Learn More About Promoting Family Referral

Promoting Family Referral

Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) requires early intervention programs like Early Steps to develop procedures for appropriate and timely referrals of children who might be eligible for early intervention services.  


Early Steps primary referral sources include families, physicians and other health care providers, early care and education providers, other early childhood practitioners, or those working in hospitals, public health centers, developmental evaluation centers, local education agencies and schools, and social service agencies. 

Collaborative partnerships between referral sources and Early Steps support a timely and appropriate referral process that helps ensure: 

  • Early identification of eligible children,  

  • Timely supports for children and their families, and  

  • A strong network of referral sources who understand the services and supports available through Early Steps and can rely on Early Steps providers to partner with them to collaboratively support the children and families they have referred.  


Primary referral sources, including families, typically contact Early Steps when: 

  • Children are not demonstrating developmental milestones as expected. Sometimes this is called "developmental surveillance."  

  • A screening done in an early care or education program, doctor's office, or other setting recommends a need for a comprehensive evaluation 

  • The child has a condition likely to result in delays if early intervention is not provided 

  • A parent or caregiver is concerned about the child's development or learning  


For a referral to be collaborative and successful, Early Steps programs should:  

  • Build rapport and establish ongoing connections and collaborations with primary referral sources. 

  • Emphasize the benefits of making a referral to Early Steps for both the primary referral source and the child and family. 

  • Use various strategies to share information about the services and supports available through Early Steps, including the Early Steps approach to caregiver coaching. 

  • Conduct follow-up activities with primary referral sources to strengthen connections and collaborations, including acknowledging referrals, answering questions, providing updates about the children referred to Early Steps, and encouraging future referrals. 

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