Secretary Wernert indicated FSSA believes from legal counsel, no legislative change needs to take place to move First Steps from one division in FSSA to another. According to Secretary Wernert the main reasons for moving First Steps are:
- Collaboration between programs serving young children and families with young children would be easier if First Steps was in the Office of Early Childhood and Out of School Learning;
- There are more “training resources” that would be available to “providers” if First Steps was transferred;
- There would be greater ease in accessing TANF and CCDF (funding that help support First Steps services).
INARF discussed the fact that they have 12 members providing First Step services, half as many as we had just a few years ago. INARF reviewed several long standing programmatic issues driven by State policy and practice including:
- Weekly prior authorization
- Definition of a natural environment
- Staff recruitment challenges and reimbursement rates
While Secretary Wernert acknowledged the impact of the issues identified by INARF on the First Steps program, he also seemed very clear that moving the program to the Office of Early Childhood and Out of School Learning would not necessarily result in resolution of the programmatic issues identified by INARF.
INARF also indicated that the DDRS focus on “life course” planning and the integration of services and supports within the context of person, family and community seem to align with First Steps remaining in DDRS. It is also our belief that the Office of Early Childhood and Out of School Learning primarily interacts with day care providers and that children on First Steps with the most significant developmental delays are not typically receiving day care services.
In conclusion, INARF representatives believe Dr. Wernert will move First Steps to the Office of Early Childhood and Out of School Learning although no time frame for such a move is known. INARF will continue to have conversations with representatives and legislators regarding the First Steps program.