A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

To Assure the Free Appropriate Public Education of All Children with Disabilities - 1996

Barriers and Resources Underlying Part H Implementation: A Utilization-Focused Evaluation Study

Michigan Department of Education, FY 1991

The Policy Context

Part H of IDEA authorizes grants to States to develop statewide comprehensive, multidisciplinary, interagency, coordinated systems to provide early intervention services to infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. Implementation of Part H presents a complex challenge to State human service delivery systems, requiring major shifts in the operation of human services, funding streams, agency relationship structures, and practitioner styles. Identification of obstacles impeding the success of this reform and development of strategies for their resolution can assist States in moving closer to their vision of a comprehensive interagency system of early intervention services. With this aim in mind, this study, carried out by the Michigan Department of Education in conjunction with the Merrill-Palmer Institute at Wayne State University, examined the barriers to full implementation of Part H in Michigan, identified resources that could be used in addressing these obstacles, and developed recommendations on alternative strategies that might be pursued to overcome these barriers.

Study Design and Methods

This 2-year study employed a multi-phase, multi-method stakeholder-based approach. Stakeholders, including representatives of State and local government, local service providers, and families, were involved in each of four phases of the study: survey development, survey dissemination and analysis, stakeholder work groups, and formulation of policy recommendations. During the first phase, a core stakeholder advisory group of 30 members assisted in the design of a survey instrument assessing perceptions of barriers to implementation and development of a sampling plan. Mail surveys were sent to a statewide sample of 700 service professionals and administrators and 100 parents of children with disabilities representing local interagency coordinating council (LICC) members, consumer parents, and key local agency personnel from the four public agencies involved in delivery of Part H services (Education--lead agency, Mental Health, Public Health, and Social Services). The response rate was 78 percent. During the second study phase, the core stakeholder group assisted project staff in interpreting the survey results and helped formulate the process for addressing priority problems.

During the third study phase, core advisory group members participated in four stakeholder work groups formed to discuss the survey results and identify critical obstacles to Part H implementation. Fifty-eight stakeholders, including parents, service providers, and State and local administrators, were involved in these groups, which also generated ideas on resources that could be used to overcome barriers. The final study phase involved developing, revising, and supporting policy recommendations designed to resolve many of the identified barriers to Part H implementation.


Survey respondents perceived the greatest barriers in two (of six) major areas: program service delivery in local communities and interagency coordination functions. Half or more of the respondents across the range of agencies identified the following specific factors as impediments to implementation: 1) inadequate numbers of program staff; 2) insufficient funds to support needed services; 3) lack of readily available bilingual information; and 4) inadequate coordination of programs within each of the State agencies. Variations in the degree to which respondents perceived barriers or were unaware of aspects of services were often related to the respondent's agency, length of employment, primary role (service provider administrator, active LICC parent, or current consumer parent) and residence in a metropolitan or rural area. Service providers and administrators from the lead agency (Education) tended to perceive fewer barriers to Part H implementation and to give fewer "don't know" responses.

The core advisory group categorized perceived barriers into four broad thematic areas: Family-Centered Services, System Coordination, Funding/Staffing, and Cultural Diversity. In addition to those described above, critical obstacles to implementation identified by the four stakeholder work groups were: failure to match family goals to the number and type of services provided; excessive paperwork burden on families receiving services from multiple agencies; insufficient funds for service coordination; lack of clear policy direction from State offices to local agencies, as well as differences across agencies in how Part H regulations are interpreted; and State level Part H policymakers' failure to give sufficient consideration to issues of cultural diversity.

Policy Recommendations

Stakeholders formulated three broad policy recommendations which, if carried out, would pave the way toward overcoming many of the barriers to Part H implementation identified from the surveys and work groups:
  1. The Special Education rules should be changed to promote greater compatibility with Part H practices, operations, and eligibility criteria.

  2. A transagency early intervention work structure should be formed at both the State and local levels that would focus on promoting family driven, culturally responsive policies and practices.

  3. A statewide study group should be convened to develop a strategy for creating the legislative basis for a transagency Family Centered System of Early Intervention Care. This process might result in the development of an entirely new Transagency Family Centered Care Act, or in changing specific provisions of existing legislation that conflict with Part H philosophy and practice.

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