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Early Childhood Intervention top container

2016 Grand Avenue • Billings, MT 59102
P: 406-281-5885 • F: 406-245-1149
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What is Early Childhood Intervention?
The first three years are critical for your child’s development. Medical and educational studies have shown a family-centered program can make a huge difference in children who have developmental delays. This process is known as early intervention–which is why it’s part of our name, and part of our mission. We help launch lifelong learners by putting children and families who may need a little extra help in touch with the supports and services they need to thrive.

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What is the purpose of Early Childhood Intervention?
The ECI Program will provide your child the opportunity to develop independently to the greatest extent possible.

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How does a child receive ECI Services?
A child may become involved in the ECI Program in the following manner: Back to Q&A

Who can receive ECI Program Services?
Families with infants from birth to 36 months of age may participate in the ECI Program. These children must meet established eligibility criteria to qualify for services. Areas of delay may include motor, social/emotional, adaptive/self help, cognitive, communication, or vision/hearing.

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What is involved in an evaluation and assessment?
When a child is referred to ECI, a screening may be done to determine a need for further evaluation. If the screening indicates a need for more information a parent must give permission for further evaluation.  The purpose of the evaluation is to determine whether or not a delay exists and to determine eligibility for Early Intervention Services.

Assessment is a vital component necessary to provide appropriate programming for the child. Knowing where the child is currently functioning will help with his/her learning to acquire new skills. The ECI staff may use a variety of assessment instruments to determine the child’s strengths and weaknesses. Assessments will be selected based on the needs of the child and family. The Family Support Specialist will provide the family with a clear interpretation of the assessment and what the results mean to the family.

With parental consent, the ECI staff may recommend, arrange, or provide additional evaluation if a child is not making progress on their current outcomes. Once the evaluation is completed a committee will review the results to determine the additional needed supports and services.

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What is an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)?
The purpose of the IFSP meeting is to establish appropriate outcomes for the child and family. The identified outcomes become the program outline for the IFSP. The IFSP team members will include the family, the Family Support Specialist, Intake Coordinator and any other member invited by the family.

The family has the final approval in determining the IFSP outcomes. It is our goal to assist and empower the families to make good decisions for their child.

By regulation the IFSP components must include:
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What is a Family Support Specialist (FSS)?
An FSS has a Bachelor’s degree in elementary, early childhood, special education or a related field. Within two years of accepting a position, the FSS must earn a comprehensive certification from the MT Department of Public Health and Human Service verifying their ability to provide quality child and family services. The FSS meets criteria every five years for recertification. Families will decide how many home visits the FSS will make every month based on child and family needs. The FSS must make at least one family visit per month.

Some of the more common roles:

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When is a child exited from the ECI Program?

The child may be exited from the ECI Program for any of the following reasons:

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May another agency provide these services?
Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) provides child and family services in Region III. These services are determined by the boundaries set by the Department of Public Health and Human Services. ECI serves families with children ages birth to 36 months in the Region 3 counties of Big Horn, Carbon, Fergus, Golden Valley, Judith Basin, Musselshell, Petroleum, Stillwater, Sweet Grass, Wheatland, Yellowstone.
Referrals for other types of services may be made to: Back to Q&A

What behavior management techniques will ECI use?
Often young children need remediation in behavior, and parents need workable techniques for controlling undesired behaviors of their child. The ECI staff believes in the use of positive behavior supports. Techniques include:

The staff and parent together determine the techniques that will be most effective. The goal is for the child to change behaviors without the use of tangible and edible reinforcers.

The ECI staff will NOT use any form of corporal punishment. This includes the use of spanking and seclusion or time–out. The use of physical restraint is employed only when absolutely necessary to protect the child from injury to self or others and the restraint is not employed as punishment.

Behaviors that become more frequent may require parents and the FSS to develop an individual behavior plan.

In cases when child abuse is questioned, Child Protective Services must be notified. They are responsible to investigate the situation, file a report, and make recommendations.

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When will my child receive ECI Services?
A child referred to ECI will be evaluated to determine eligibility for services. Once eligibility is determined, ECI must provide core services to the family and the IFSP must be developed within 45 days of the referral date. Early Intervention is provided at no cost to your family. An evaluation will be administered annually to determine eligibility to continue ECI services.

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What about Services after my child turns three?
Before a child turns three (and is eligible for Preschool Special Education) an Evaluation Team including parents will develop procedures and write an Individual Education Plan for a smooth transition into an appropriate program. If a child turns three and is not eligible for Preschool Special Education the family and FSS may review community preschool resources for services.

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Why a Program for parents, infants and toddlers?
Experience and research has shown that the brain grows rapidly and makes lifelong connections early in life. For children with developmental delays, early intervention significantly improves their development. We can provide practical and emotional support by helping parents to access available community resources.

We can assist parents or guardians in obtaining the skills necessary to become effective change agents in the overall development of their child.

We can help parents teach their children everyday skills such as feeding, crawling, walking, talking, playing, etc. Many children seem to do these things automatically, but for some children special help is needed.

We can provide practical and emotional support by arranging for parents to meet other parents and to access community resources.

We can teach child growth and development and show how to manage difficult behaviors at home.

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Why a "HOME" Program?
Parents are their baby’s FIRST and MOST IMPORTANT teacher. YOUR HOME is your baby’s most important learning place. Working with you and your baby at home, we are able to use the best person and place to help your baby learn everyday skills. At home, where you and your baby are most comfortable, your child will be most able to learn.

Teaching and learning take place any time parents and babies spend time together. We can help you use that time to teach your baby the things he or she most needs to learn, in a way that will make teaching and learning EASY for both of you!

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What will we do during a home visit?
A home visit will be scheduled with an FSS and other staff as determined in the IFSP. The FSS will help you learn about your child’s strengths and about those areas that need special attention.

When the FSS or other ECI staff comes to visit, we will work with you and your child to show you how to work on the identified outcomes during everyday family routines. There is strong evidence that families who adopt the philosophy, "INTERVENTION OCCURS
BETWEEN VISITS OF THE PROFESSIONALS," have children who grow and develop at a faster pace.

The FSS will coach you on how to help your child learn during numerous learning opportunities throughout the day.

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What is in my child's file?
Information needed to plan your child’s developmental program and record  progress will be kept. Your child’s confidential file may include:

You can access your child’s records upon request. Please see “Parent’s Rights” for more information regarding records.

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What is advocacy?

Advocacy is the process of representing the rights and interests of an individual or group, in order to realize the rights to which the individual or group is entitled, to obtain needed services, and to remove barriers to meeting identified needs.


We encourage the parents of a child with delays in development to contact and involve a child advocate in the decision making process and development of their child's IFSP.

An advocate can be anyone appointed by the parents (friends, associates, or a trained advocate).

Available Advocacy Services:

Parents Let’s Unite For Kids (PLUK) can be contacted for advocacy services and additional information at 255-0540.

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Why is it important for ECI to use other funds and access ECI dollars last?
We are required to use Early Intervention funds last (referred to as the payor of last resort). These funds can be used only after ECI has attempted to access payment by other resources. Therefore, ECI must bill Medicaid and private pay insurance for all services identified on the IFSP. This requirement is both a federal and state regulation. The services this most often applies to are therapy services (occupational, physical, and speech). It does not affect primary services provided by ECI (FSS, evaluation/assessment, support coordination, and development of the IFSP).

Federal and state regulations also require Early Intervention services, determined by ECI, be included in a child’s IFSP at no cost to families.

ECI can request information from individual insurance companies without consent of the family. However, written consent is required before we can request your insurance company pay or reimburse us for these related services. ECI may, according to federal and state guidelines, not require families to access their private insurance when the parent would incur a financial cost to provide for the agreed upon IFSP services.

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What can I do if I have a concern or complaint?
The steps below are suggested as a guideline to follow. At any time you may contact the Department of Public Health and Human Services – Developmental Disabilities Program (See Parents Rights). We will provide you regularly with information regarding complaints and due process.

  • Discuss the concern/complaint with your FSS. If you do not get satisfactory resolution or would prefer to instead discuss the issue with someone else, you have that right.
  • Contact the ECI Director, who will gather information and meet with you.
  • You can initiate formal proceedings with the Department of Public Health and Human Services – Developmental Disabilities Program. If ECI is aware that you are proceeding to formal Complaint, we will provide you with state–prepared information regarding complaints/due process/and mediation. When a formal complaint is made, specifically developed impartial procedures and timelines are implemented as required by Federal and State Rule under the direction of the state. ECI assures that staff will follow the required procedures.

If you have concerns about the FSS assigned, you may request an FSS staff change at any time by contacting the ECI Director. We will do all within our power to resolve conflicts, understanding that we are obligated to follow specified federal and state rules and regulations.

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What policies govern ECI?
ECI policies can be found in the ECI Handbook given to each family. A link to the ECI Handbook can be found in the Resources tab on this website. Additional information may be found on the Montana DPHHS website and can be requested at the addresses listed below. If you have a complaint or conflict that you have not been able to resolve with ECI, you have the right to request impartial procedures with the Department of Public Health and Human Services. These proceeding may include filing a formal complaint, asking for due process, or mediation.
Additional Information Available:

Department of Public Health and Human Services
2121 Rosebud, Suite C-1
Billings Montana 59102

P.O. Box 4210
Helena Montana  59604-4210

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What are my rights as a parent?

Parental Rights and ECI’s description of how those rights are addressed are available in the ECI Handbook provided to each family. Parents have the right to be fully informed of all information relevant to activities for which consent is sought in the parents' native language or other mode of communication. Before your child is evaluated, placed, provided or has services changed (IFSP), or your child’s records are released we must have your written and signed consent. If needed, an interpreter will be provided by ECI for these identified activities. You understand that consent is voluntary and that you can inform us that you have changed your mind at any time (revoke your decision). All or parts of ECI services can be accepted or declined by the family at any time without jeopardizing other ECI services. All ECI services are voluntary. You must be given prior notice (in your native language or other mode of communication) before the agency refuses to initiate or change: the identification, an evaluation, the provision of placement, or early intervention services. ECI will provide written information in a variety of ways prior to asking for your signed consent to any of the activities listed above.

Child and family information must be handled confidentially. You have the right to examine your child’s records, get a copy of those records, request changes to information that you think is inaccurate, misleading, or violates your privacy or other rights. You can also ask that the agency explains or interprets information in your child’s record. You must also be informed about how your child’s records will be maintained and destroyed when no longer needed. ECI parents may request that they review or receive a copy of their child’s record. ECI will follow state and federal timelines to meet those requests. If you feel that the record includes inaccurate or misleading information you may submit in writing a request to the ECI Director that the information be changed or removed. The Director will review the request and provide a written determination to that request.

If you have question about information in your child’s file ask your ECI FSS. Your FSS will either answer the question or seek out an answer. ECI will secure all personally identifiable information. Records cannot be release to other persons or agencies without your signed consent.

All ECI maintained records will be destroyed eight years after exit from ECI services. At that time, demographic information will be maintained indicating that the child did receive Early Intervention services.

If no parent can be identified for the child, a surrogate parent will be assigned to ensure that the rights of children eligible for IDEA–Infant and Toddler Program are protected. ECI will work with the court systems to have surrogate parents assigned when determined necessary. You have the right to “Impartial Procedures” to resolve a complaint regarding your child.

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