You have successfully applied to your local Regional Center and been approved to receive funding and/or services. What’s next?

After your initial intake meeting, a Regional Center service coordinator will schedule an Individualized Program Plan (IPP) meeting or an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) meeting with you. Here’s what you need to know to prepare for the meeting, and how to plan meaningful goals that match the services your child needs.
 

What to Know About IPP and IFSP 

 

Most Regional Centers refer to an IPP (Individualized Program Plan) for children over age three and an IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan) for children under age three. Clarify with your service coordinator if you are ever confused about the terminology.

Like an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), the IPP/IFSP is a document that describes your child’s needs, goals, and objectives as well as the services and supports your child will need to achieve those goals and objectives. 
 

Creating Goals Based on Services You’re Seeking

 

At the meeting, you and the service coordinator will discuss your child’s needs and goals, specific concerns you may have about your child’s development, and what services you receive from other resources. You will also discuss Regional Center–funded services that may be appropriate for your child. For infants and toddlers, available services might include physical, occupational, and speech therapies, infant stimulation therapy, center-based programming (from 18–36 months), copayment assistance for those within certain income limits, respite care, and support groups and conferences. For a young school-aged child, available services might include social skills and behavioral interventions, copayment assistance for those who qualify, respite care, day care services for working parents, support groups and conferences, and diapering and medical supplies, among others. Funding was also restored recently for social recreation programming, non-medical therapies, educational services in some circumstances, and camping. 

Services provided by Regional Center are based on the goals and objectives you list for your child in the IPP/IFSP document, so if you plan to request particular services, be sure that they are supported by your child’s goals. For example, if you want to ask for behavioral and social skills supports, your child’s IPP should document problematic behaviors and difficulties with socialization and include goals to address these concerns.

The IPP/IFSP authorizes services paid for by Regional Center but also includes generic services, such as school goals and services (which are paid for and provided by the school district — remember that Regional Center is the payer of last resort). If you want your Regional Center to pay for conference fees, for example, you need a goal written in the IPP that says the parent will be educated about transition services or about the diagnosis. Then, during the year, you can ask for a conference to be funded because you have a parent education goal in your IPP.

As another example, if you’ve been recommended equestrian therapy by a physical therapist or you feel that your child would benefit from equestrian therapy, it’s important to write goals that support a request for funding that service. 
 

If You Don’t Have Goals Yet, Where Should You Start?

 

Lisa Concoff Kronbeck, Undivided’s Public Benefits Specialist, says that parents may not know what services they should ask for, but they can start by thinking about their child’s short-term and long-term goals and go from there. This is where person-centered planning comes in. What are your child’s hopes, dreams, and wishes for the future? What kind of life do they want to have, and what supports do they need to achieve it? For more on what person-centered planning is, check out this clip from Chris Arroyo, regional manager at the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities:
 

 

Let’s use an example of a child who wants to be able to live independently or with minimal support in the future. One important step toward that goal is being able to prepare their own meals. To break down that long-term goal into something more concrete for this year’s IPP goal, the child could focus on age-appropriate kitchen safety, like how to use (or not use) knives and operate a stove, oven, or microwave. Taking a cooking class would support the child in this goal, so the IPP could include asking for a cooking class to be funded.

Creating benchmark goals can help parents turn long-term goals for their kids into short-term objectives that are easier to measure and be matched to appropriate services.

According to Concoff Kronbeck, it’s vital for parents to be able to show that the services they’re asking for will support these goals. She says, “When you request funding for something, especially for something like social-recreational services, you have to be able to demonstrate that the service will further one of your IPP/IFSP goals and that it’s going to help the child accomplish a goal that they wouldn’t be able to accomplish without that service. If you’re asking for a social class or activities group, you have to be able to describe exactly how it’s going to help your child meet their goal.”

This may involve being specific about how you’ll measure your child’s progress toward the goal. “As Chris Arroyo discussed in his presentation with us,  IPP/IFSP goals have historically been kind of vague,” she continues. “But with social-recreational funding being restored, including the kinds of services like non-medical therapy and camping that haven’t been funded since 2009, it’s likely that Regional Centers are going to start wanting to see goals being a bit more specific and measurable. They’ll start wanting IPP/IFSP goals to look a bit more like IEP goals in the sense that you can actually assess whether they’ve been met and to what extent.”
 

More About Measurable Goals

 

Arroyo says the reason for creating measurable goals “is because you want to know a year from now, after the program has been implemented, did the person reach their goal? We want goals to be objectively measured.” 

Arroyo shares the example of creating a goal based on street safety: “Maybe there’s a particular goal about stopping at each stoplight at the pedestrian walkway and looking both ways. That goal is going to be measured by whoever’s working with that person on crossing the street, so ultimately, that’s where the assessment happens. That’s why the goal needs to be written in such a way that it’s objectively able to be evaluated by almost anybody.” 

Measurable IPP/IFSP goals help show that the Regional Center services you’re requesting are indeed helping your child make progress from year to year. Here’s a helpful strategy guide from Arroyo’s organization about planning IPP goals with your Regional Center.

 

When Do You Have to Attend an IPP/IFSP Meeting?

 

Regional Center clients are required to attend an IPP/IFSP meeting every three years if they are not enrolled in Medi-Cal. However, all Regional Center clients are entitled to an annual person-centered planning meeting, so you can ask to schedule the meeting more often than every three years. If your child is not enrolled in Medi-Cal (either the traditional way or through the institutional deeming waiver), the IPP/IFSP meeting must occur every year. 
 

Tips for a Successful IPP/IFSP Meeting

 

Arroyo says that the IPP/IFSP is a list of “all the things the Regional Center is going to do as well as evidence that they are monitoring and making sure your needs get met. It represents the obligation that the Regional Center has to you and your family.” For that reason, you want to make sure everything you’re asking for is addressed in the document. Here’s what to remember going into the meeting:

  • Unlike an IEP, it’s usually just the parent and the Regional Center service coordinator who create the IPP/IFSP, sometimes with the participation of their supervisor. The coordinator has thirty days after your meeting to write the report. It’s a good idea to give them notes so that they don’t forget things you asked for. 

  • You are entitled to have a decision-maker present, so if your coordinator always has to go back and ask the supervisor about your request, ask that the supervisor attend the meeting.

  • If they say no to your request, ask for prior written notice or a letter of denial. They have to write a denial if you ask for something that they don’t or won’t provide.
     

Self-Determination and IPP/IFSP Goals

 

If your family is participating in Regional Center’s Self-Determination Program (SDP), or is interested in doing so, you may be wondering whether participating in SDP means you should approach the IPP/IFSP process and goals differently. In short, yes and no. Arroyo says that even with Self-Determination, “You’re still going through that process of figuring out what system is going to provide what service. You do need to approach the process a little differently, but I think you’re approaching it with this coherent idea of creating a life, and that the Regional Center system can provide services that can get a person further. Regional Center is just one system of many that may be able to assist.” (For a more detailed look at what the SDP can offer, read our article, Unmet Needs: What Are They and How Can Self-Determination Help?)


What questions do you still have about IPP/IFSP goals? Reach out to us and let us know!

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