Children First has adopted a family-centered approach to organizing and providing assistance and support to families. This approach is based upon the principles of respecting every family’s individuality. Family-centered services respect the strengths and resourcefulness of all families and aim to support and encourage families in their efforts to independently meet the needs of their child with special needs and other family members in ways that they define as functional and appropriate for them. A philosophy of family-centered services promises openness and flexibility to accommodate diversity in family beliefs, values, and functioning styles and the changes that families undergo continually as they cope with expected and unexpected life events.

The family-centered philosophy at Children First is based on the following assumptions:


  • All people have strengths;
  • All people benefit from support and encouragement;
  • All people have different but equally valued skills, abilities and knowledge;
  • All people should have the opportunity to be fully included within their communities
  • All families have hopes, dreams and wishes for their children;
  • All families are resourceful, but all families do not have equal access to resources;
  • All families should be assisted in ways that help them maintain their dignity and hope;
  • All families should be equal partners in the relationship with service providers;

We are guided by the following Key Principles:

  1. Infants and young children learn best through everyday experiences and interactions with familiar people in familiar contexts.
  2. All families, with the necessary supports and resources, can enhance their children’s learning, development and social-emotional well-being.
  3. The primary role of a service provider in early intervention is to work with and support family members and caregivers in children’s lives.
  4. The early intervention process, from initial contacts through transition, must be dynamic and individualized to reflect the child’s and family members’ preferences, learning styles and cultural beliefs.
  5. Individual Family Plan outcomes must be functional and based on children’s and families’ needs and family-identified priorities.
  6. The family’s priorities, needs and interests are addressed most appropriately by a primary provider who represents and receives team and community support.
  7. Interventions with young children and family members must be based on explicit principles, validated practices, best available research, and relevant laws and regulations.


Adapted in part from the Workgroup on Principles and Practices in Natural Environments (November, 2007) Agreed upon mission and key principles for providing early intervention services in natural environments.

OSEP TA Community of Practice-Part C Settings

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