Children's Medical Services (CMS) within the Department of Health (DOH) is responsible for the administration and oversight of Early Steps, the Florida Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities (IDEA, Part C) and is the lead agency appointed by the governor. As the lead agency, the Department of Health must ensure that early intervention services in Florida meet the needs of infants and toddlers and their families appropriately, effectively, and in a timely manner by accomplishing the following:
- Ensuring compliance with IDEA, Part C federal regulations, state policy, and program contract requirements
- Providing ongoing technical assistance, training and support to local Early Steps
- Ensuring continuous quality improvement through ongoing planning, implementing, analyzing, evaluating and improving activities to ensure improved results for infants and toddlers and their families
The Department of Health, Children's Medical Services is committed to the development and utilization of mechanisms and activities that result in effective general supervision of Early Steps. Effective supervision ensures that infants, toddlers, and their families have available quality early intervention services and supports provided within the context of daily family activities and routines.
Early Steps Units
Early Steps is located within the Florida Department of Health, Children's Medical Services, Division of CMS Network and Related Programs, Bureau of Early Interventions in Tallahassee, Florida. Early Steps staff includes a bureau chief and three units. The three units are organized around the following operational topics:
- Performance Improvement
Early Steps State Office staff also includes a vision and hearing early intervention services coordinator and one fiscal management position. Early Steps State Office personnel perform all necessary administrative functions to ensure statewide implementation of Early Steps.
Early Steps State Office staff is responsible for the administration, oversight, and evaluation of all activities related to the implementation of Early Steps. There are four major areas of responsibility as outlined below.
1. Programmatic Activities: Specific programmatic responsibilities are assigned to Early Steps staff members for administering the statewide program. Major responsibilities include:
- Designing funding methodology and allocation of funds
- Developing and disseminating policies and procedures
- Ensuring family involvement
- Establishing a system for personnel development and training
- Providing technical assistance and support
- Providing supervision and monitoring of local Early Steps
- Ensuring a system for mediation, complaints and due process hearings
- Collecting and reporting of statewide data including the IDEA, Part C Annual Report
- Submitting the annual Part C application for funding
- Supporting the Florida Interagency Coordinating Council for Infants and Toddlers (FICCIT)
- Developing Public Awareness materials and activities
- Maintaining a Central Directory
- Providing system evaluation and continuous improvement activities
2. Community Input and Information Sharing: Early Steps State Office staff is committed to integrating community input into the decision making process. Families, providers and agencies delivering early intervention services and others having an interest in services to infants and toddlers are given an opportunity to provide input into the development of policies governing Early Steps by participation on workgroups and review of policies under development.
3. Interagency Coordination: Early Steps is a coordination of services program at the state and local level. Mechanisms and procedures that are in place to facilitate coordination at the state and local level include:
- Development of interagency agreements with the Department of Education, Division of Blind Services, Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, and Head Start
- Funding of a position in the Department of Education to provide technical assistance to Local Education Agencies who serve the under the age of three population and to facilitate transition from Part C to Part B Programs
- Collaboration with staff from the Agency for Health Care Administration to facilitate access to Medicaid funding for targeted case management and early intervention services
- Participation of staff from the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Education in the Quality Assurance Monitoring, follow-up of corrective action, training and technical assistance activities
- Requiring Local Early Steps participation on local interagency councils/groups and School Readiness Coalitions as appropriate and have interagency agreements with Local Education Agencies, Children's Medical Services Network, and other local community agencies who serve young children
- Representation of interagency state level staff on the Florida Transition Project to facilitate building local community transition systems and developing local interagency agreements around transition from birth through age five
- Inclusion of broad representation of both state and local level stakeholders and constituencies on state level workgroups
- Development of linkages with the Partnership for School Readiness at the state level and participation of Local Early Steps in local School Readiness Coalitions in the Local Early Steps service area
- Collaboration with the Department of Children and Families to implement the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA)
4. Contract Activities: The Early Steps State Office contracts on an annual basis with a lead organization in each of the 15 service areas throughout the state for the coordination, oversight and implementation of Early Steps in the local area. The contract holder in turn contracts or enters into agreements with local service providers to provide direct services to eligible infants and toddlers and their families.