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Children's Medical Services - Special services for children with special needs
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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 5, Lesson 3

Who Are Some of Our Community Partners?

The Role of the Family Resource Specialist (FRS) in Early Steps

Family Resource Specialists (FRS) are funded by the Florida Department of Health, Children's Medical Services, to assist families of children with disabilities, ages birth to three, in accessing services within the Early Steps system. They serve as a community link to support family-centered efforts and activities within Early Steps and work under the general supervision of the Early Steps Director/Coordinator. They are parents of children with disabilities who are involved in the community and have knowledge of local resources. They are often the family's first contact with the Early Steps system, and as such, play a vital role in giving families a good start in Early Steps. They can be a valuable resource for you, as well. FRS staff are located in 16 regions of the state corresponding to Early Steps local programs and cover all 67 Florida counties.

The FRS helps ensure that families are supported within the system. Some of their responsibilities include:

  • Family Centered Assurance Activities - Enhancing and advocating for family-centered services and efforts within community agencies, including soliciting feedback from families receiving Early Steps services.
  • Interagency and Community Networking - This includes working closely with local and state parent organizations and exchanging information about programs and initiatives for children among community programs and agencies. It also includes working with other community agencies on transitions.
  • mother holding flowersPersonnel Development - Participating in local and state informational meetings and trainings on issues relevant to families of children with special needs.
  • Training and Education - Participating in staff and provider training, workshops and other activities as presenters and participants to ensure a family sensitive focus, in addition to providing technical assistance, training, and leadership for families. Facilitating playgroups and distributing newsletters are two additional activities they may provide.
  • Family Support - Determining the need for and developing parent-to-parent support resources. Heightening awareness of family-centered services and organizations within the community and state.

Critical Partnerships for Collaboration with the Early Steps System

Who are the other professionals with whom you might possibly work in Florida? While children with disabilities, birth to age three, are served primarily though the Early Steps service delivery system, there are many public and private entities and agencies that also provide some services to children with special needs and their families. Some of these are listed below. How many do you work with?

  • Head Start. There are four components in the Head Start system providing programming and services to low income families with children birth to five years old. In addition to the Head Start Preschool program, there is also Early Head Start, which focuses on expectant parents and infants and toddlers, Redlands Christian Migrant Association, and American Indian Head Start.
  • The Florida Partnership for School Readiness. This project funds the local Early Learning Coalitions around the state. It was established to ensure that all children are emotionally, physically, socially, and intellectually ready to enter school, ready to learn. Additionally, the crucial role of parents as the child's first teachers is recognized. The target population is children birth to five in childcare settings.
  • Florida Transition Project. This project trains and provides technical assistance to community teams to build community-wide transition systems and interagency agreements to support the transition of children from Early Steps into the Section 619 Prekindergarten (Pre-K) Program for children with disabilities and from Pre-K to regular or special education in the schools. This Project is now part of the Technical Assistance and Training System (TATS) funded by the Florida Department of Education.
  • Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resources System (FDLRS) Supports state and local initiatives in partnership with communities and families of children with disabilities. FDLRS is responsible for the birth through 21 Child Find efforts within Florida. This includes providing developmental screening and, when appropriate, comprehensive, multi-disciplinary evaluations for children birth to five.
  • Family Network on Disabilities (FND) This is one of Florida's Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIC). Each state has at least one parent center, and states with large populations may have more. There are approximately 100 parent centers in the U.S. Parent Centers train and inform parents and professionals, help families obtain appropriate education and services for their children with disabilities, work to improve educational results for all children, resolve problems between families and schools or other agencies and connect children with disabilities to community resources that address their needs.


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