IFSP Development, Service Coordination, Teamwork

Service Coordinators & Service Providers – Strategies for Making the Partnership Successful

A strong, comfortable, and trusting partnership between the service coordinator and the service provider is so important for a cohesive early intervention system. Without it, you have IFSP services ending without IFSP reviews or outcomes being “met” but not indicated on the plan. You have frustrated team members who feel that families are not getting the support they need. You could also have families who are left in the dark about their services. Cooperation, communication, and mutual respect are key if the partnership is to be successful and families are to get the greatest benefits from intervention. Here are a few tips for working together:

Get to Know Each Other

You might think this goes without saying, but with high caseloads and constant travel between visits, it can be a real challenge to meet all IFSP team members. Try to chat by phone or email to get to know each other and make a positive connection.

Communicate Regularly

Keep each other in the loop and touch base often to avoid miscommunications. It can be difficult for the service coordinator to stay in the loop when the provider sees the family more frequently, so the provider can touch base to help the service coordinator know when important changes happen. The service coordinator can also make a concentrated effort to keep regular contact with the family and service provider to ensure that he/she knows when IFSP reviews are needed, links to other resources are necessary, etc. Communication will work best when both sides are trying.

Be Respectful

Service providers must understand the key role service coordinators play and avoid treating them like “paper pushers.” On the other hand, the service coordinator must be an active team member who participates in and stays knowledgeable about intervention practices, developmental disabilities, community resources, and facilitating teams.

Follow-Up and Follow-Through

Do what you say you’ll do. This is one of the biggest complaints and frustrations among team members. A team member learns to trust your knowledge and skill by seeing what you do so be mindful of providing good services to the family and to your other team members.

Celebrate Together!

Service coordinators and service providers share the experiences of supporting families. They can come together to share in the child’s and family’s success. They can also share frustrations and work together to solve problems so that success happens for every family!

Because early intervention is a complicated system, there are lots of things that can get in the way of maintaining a good partnership among team members, such as lack of time to work together, disagreements about services, problems with funding or reimbursement for services, etc. etc. Facilitating team cohesion is one of the roles of the service coordinator and takes active effort to make sure that everyone is talking to and supporting everyone else. The service provider also has to always keep the service coordinator in mind when changes may be needed to the IFSP or when the family needs additional resources. The most successful partnership are build on this mutual effort. Perhaps one of the most important things to remember is this – when the partnership doesn’t work well, it affects the child and family. To have the most effective early intervention system, we have to all work together!

What other strategies do you have for when the partnership breaks down? What do you do each day to work successfully with your service providers & service coordinators? Share an example of when you’ve worked sucessfully with a team member!

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3 Comments to “Service Coordinators & Service Providers – Strategies for Making the Partnership Successful”

  1. When I was working as a service coordinator in NYC over 12 years ago, I had a mother who was complaining about the OT who was providing feeding therapy. The provider was new to our agency but had come from another state and had an excellent reputation. I called the provider and asked whether I could observe one of her sessions with the child and it would give us an opportunity to meet. I did this and saw that she was doing great work with the child & mother, but it just wasn’t what the mother had expected, which was why she was unhappy with the services/progress. I spoke with the mother to explain what the OT was doing and remind her that progress isn’t immediate. I spoke with the OT about the conversation and praised the work she was doing. We developed a very positive working relationship and are personal friends, to this day! I learned that it’s a good idea to remain impartial and observe the issue/concern for myself.

    • Great point, Julie! Yes, listening to both sides (the mother and the OT) with an objective frame of mind is important. I love it that you observed then could mediate and help everyone understand what was happening and what was needed.

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