When You Have A
Concern About First Steps Services
of the “Facts at Your Fingertips”
Series of Informational Materials for Parents and Families Enrolled in the
First Steps System in Vigo County
In a previous
edition of “Facts at Your Fingertips”,
we shared information about the rights and responsibilities of families who are
enrolled in the First Steps system. In
this follow-up edition, we will be talking about what happens if you feel your
rights have been ignored and how we hope you avoid ever getting to that
point. If, however, you feel your
rights have been violated, we hope you will let us know and give us the
opportunity to correct whatever concerns you have. If that doesn’t work, we want you to know how to file a complaint
that will ensure your concerns are addressed.
More about filing a complaint will be explained later in this packet.
Throughout your child’s time in the First Steps system, you will be
dealing with many issues. In addition
to the concerns you have about your child’s ongoing health and growth and
development, you will also be dealing with receiving services within Indiana’s
First Steps service delivery system. As
is true with any system, the potential exists for conflict to come up. Whenever conflict or concerns happen, it’s
best to deal with it as quickly as possible.
This prevents the situation from getting worse. Sometimes, it may be as simple as building a
stronger system of communication. Other
times, it may mean that you will want to change your service provider. All of these options are available to you.
What kinds of concerns can happen? As
is true with any situation, lots of things can cause concern. In First Steps, your concerns may be about:
the amount of
service your child is receiving
provider who is providing your service
that are kept on your child.
concerns are, it is best to discuss them as quickly as possible with the
Where do I begin if I have a concern? The
best place to begin this discussion is with your child’s service coordinator. Your service coordinator is the person who
links you to all your child’s services and keeps everyone working
together. Sometimes, it feels as if
your child is following the ‘map’ of their individual plan. If that’s the case, then the service
coordinator is the person helping you to direct traffic. If you have a concern, talk to your service
coordinator first. Explain openly and
honestly what your concern is and ask for their help. Ideally, the service coordinator will help you think of all the
options that will make you feel better about your child’s services and then
together you will take the steps necessary to resolve whatever conflict has
There are times
that you may have a conflict with a particular service provider. These things happen and it’s often through
no one’s fault. If you would like to
change from one service provider or therapist to another one, that can easily
be arranged by talking to your service coordinator. They will gladly begin the process of making this change by
helping you use the Provider Matrix to identify another service provider.
What if my concern is my child’s service coordinator?
There may be times that you have concerns about your service
coordinator. When this happens, you may
be confused about whom to talk to in
order to resolve the conflict or concern.
First Steps makes this easy by always making the intake coordinators at
the System Point of Entry (SPOE) available to assist you in dealing with your
concerns about a service coordinator.
If you need to reach the SPOE coordinator, feel free to call her at
(812) 231-8337. The SPOE coordinator
will help you go through the Service Provider Matrix and identify a different
service coordinator who will be a better match for you and your child.
Do I have other options?
Each county in Indiana has a local planning and coordinating council
that deals with the local issues around First Steps. The coordinator of this council is also available to help should
you have a concern about the First Steps system or your child’s First Steps
services. Feel free to contact the
coordinator if you have questions or concerns at any time. She will be more than happy to help you in
whatever way she can, including helping you to file a more formal
complaint. In Vigo County, the First
Steps coordinator can be reached at (812) 231-8342.
What if just talking doesn’t work?
Sometimes, you need to express your concerns in a more formal manner, or
you feel as if your concerns aren’t being addressed. There are various options to do this within the First Steps
system. Federal law and state
regulations have created a process for you to file a formal complaint.
Your options for
filing a more formal complaint don’t have to be scary. It just means you put your concerns in
writing and you send those concerns to someone who can make a real difference. Each community has a regional consultant who
works within the Bureau of Child Development.
This consultant acts as a “go-between” from the local level to the state
First Steps office. By working with
your local First Steps Council coordinator, you can get the address or phone
number for the county consultant. You
are free to call or write the regional consultant with any concern you might
In addition to
contacting the local First Steps coordinator or the regional consultant,
parents are free to contact the state First Steps Director. The state director welcomes letters, phone
calls or e-mails from families who participate in the First Steps system.
How to contact the state First Steps
Director. You can contact the state office by writing:
First Steps Director
Family and Social Services
Division of Family and Children
Bureau of Child Development
402 West Washington Street, Room W.
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-2739
Or calling: (317) 232-1144
Or toll free in
Indiana: 1-800-441-STEP (7837)
What happens when I express concerns or file
a complaint? Ideally, what happens is that concerns get
addressed quickly and easily. A
complaint may be dealt with in one of three ways.
can be dealt with through informal discussions, as we wrote about earlier in
A Due Process
Hearing can be held. This is
somewhat like a legal action, where each party presents their side of the
“case”. A “Hearing officer” will listen to your presentation and that of
the other party and then rule on the issues.
This ruling is a binding agreement.
be used. Over the last few years, the
federal government has developed another, less complicated system for dealing
with complaints. Indiana was one of the
first states to develop this system of mediation. In mediation, the process is a bit more
formal that just contacting a coordinator or regional consultant, but not as
formal as a Due Process Hearing. An
impartial mediator will hear the issues of both sides and together with the
parties involved, develop an agreement that can be accepted by all
parties. Sometimes, families file for a
Due Process Hearing, but proceed with mediation in the meantime. Mediation costs are paid by the state and
all sessions are scheduled at a time and place that is convenient to you.
How often are complaints really filed?
We’re lucky here in Indiana that most concerns and issues can be dealt
with in a more relaxed and informal way, meeting the needs of parents and
children and allowing the First Steps system to do what they are supposed to be
doing. In fact, with almost 14,000
children receiving First Steps services last year, only 3 complaints were
filed! That doesn’t’ mean there weren’t
more issues and concerns expressed by parents, but it does mean that strong
communication between families and service providers dealt with the majority of
issues that came up.
Communication and Conflict Resolution.
Open communication is the best way to resolve any and all concerns that
might come up. By speaking up, you let
other people know what you’re thinking or how you want something to be
done. Without communication, First
Steps services just don’t work as well as they could.
communication can lead to misunderstandings that take time away from providing
the best possible services for your child and your family. By speaking up and calmly discussing
concerns, you can often resolve whatever issues there are.
Five Steps to Successful Problem Solving. By
following these steps, you can help to resolve any concerns you might have
about your child’s participation in First Steps Services.
Define the problem.
Sometimes, this is harder than it seems on the surface, but if you sit
down and carefully look at the issues, you’ll find out what your real concerns
Summarize all the causes of the concern and
identify the basic causes. Don’t try to solve the problem immediately
without really looking at the causes.
In doing that, you may overlook a larger concern.
Identify all the possible solutions and then
decide which ones might work best. This is sometimes hard to
do. You have to be open to all sorts of
possibilities. Some of them may seem
off track, but it’s important to be open and listen to every possibility. Once you have all the ideas on the table,
then you can work to decide which ones really work best.
Analyze the potential solution. In
this step, it’s important to take those possible solutions and decide which
ones will work best for your child and your family. At this step, it’s good to think about how each solution will resolve
your concern and prevent other concerns from coming up.
Select the best solution and act on it.
Make sure all parties agree to this best solution and then start working
together to make it come true. Keep an
eye on everyone’s participation in making this solution a reality. It’s a good idea to write down what everyone
intends to do. Be specific. And then be happy about how you found an
answer to your concern.
Don’t hesitate to identify concerns you have about your child’s
participation in First Steps. Talk to
your child’s provider if that is the point of concern. Remember that your service coordinator or
the local First Steps Council coordinator can help. If you can’t solve the issue, don’t hesitate to contact someone
in the state First Steps office and express your concerns to them. Remember that open and honest communication
is the best way to solve any concern you might have so that your child receives
First Steps services that can really make a difference!