Register now for Jessica Minahan's "Practical Strategies for Reducing Anxiety and Challenging Behavior!"
Family Educator Partnership
- Statewide Family & Educator Partnership Overview
- Early ACCESS Services (ages 0 - 3)
- Special Education Resources for Families
- Procedural Safeguards for Families
- Community Resources for Families of Children with Disabilities
- Post-Secondary Transition Planning
- Additional Resources for Families
- Special Education Surrogate Parent Training and Information
- Little Free Libraries
- Upcoming Workshops for Families and Educators
The FEP, started in 1984, provides a unique opportunity for parents and educators to build partnerships to improve educational programs for children and young adults with special needs. Previously, the program was known as Parent and Educator Connection (PEC). Modeling an effective collaborative partnership, the FEP is staffed by a family coordinator who brings the perspective of a parent with a child having special needs and an educator coordinator who brings the perspective of an educator. Each of Iowa’s Area Education Agencies (AEAs) employs these staff to guide the program within the AEA. They collaborate directly with parents, local education agencies, and agencies outside the educational system.
The goal of the Iowa Family & Educator Partnership is to support successful outcomes in the areas of living, learning and working for individuals with disabilities ages 0-21, the Family & Educator Partnership will operate within a tiered system of supports across Iowa with intentional coordination, consistency, and continuity through partnerships between families and educators.
FEP Resources and Services for Families and Educators
- Facilitate understanding of special education, including family/student rights and responsibilities
- Support families and educators through personal, phone, email contact, including attending Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP)/IEP meetings
- Assistance preparing for IFSP/IEP meeting
- Information and support regarding transition from IFSP to IEP and post secondary transition
- Support communication between home and school to enhance family and educator partnerships
- Link family and educators to services within the AEA and the community
- Provide information and understanding regarding educational processes
Early ACCESS is a partnership between families with young children, birth to age three, and providers from local Public Health, Human Services, Child Health Specialty Clinics, Area Education Agencies and other community programs. The purpose of this system of services is for families and service providers to work together in identifying, coordinating and providing needed services/resources that will help the family assist their infant or toddler to grow and develop and reach his/her greatest potential.
If you are interested in Early ACCESS for your child you can make a referral via E-Mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 800-632-5918.
- Keystone AEA Service Providers List
- Other Interagency Service Providers
- Parents-As-Teachers (Delaware)
- Northeast Iowa Community Action
- Early Head Start/Head Start
- Visiting Nurse's Association (VNA)
- BDF Empowerment (Buchanan, Delaware, Fayette)
- HAWC Partnerships for Children (Howard, Allamakee, Winneshiek, Clayton)
ACHIEVE is Iowa’s online system to support implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). ACHIEVE is being used statewide by teams of educators, service providers, and families to develop Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs) and Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). ACHIEVE supports individualized planning by:
Focusing attention on the child or learner
Simplifying processes and streamlining the use of data
Providing tools to improve decision making and individualization
Facilitating team member communication and collaboration
Engaging educators and families in diagnosing, designing and delivering special education services based on Iowa’s Specially Designed Instruction Framework
ACHIEVE is the new system in which Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) will be written. One of the most significant changes you will notice is the way the IEP looks when it is printed. Your student’s IEP within the ACHIEVE system will contain all the same information as your student’s previous IEP(s) but be presented differently. Please know that your student’s special education services, supports and procedural safeguards under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) will remain the same within the new ACHIEVE system.
The chart below is provided to help you prepare for the meeting when ACHIEVE will be used for the first time in developing your child’s IEP. It will likely be at the time of an annual review or re-evaluation. The chart includes examples of differences between the former IEP system and the new ACHIEVE system.
The Family and Educator Partnership has developed family-friendly information about special education in Iowa. These resources and others are located on the I3 Iowa IDEA Information site. Information contained on I3 is consistent, reliable, and available to all families and educators as needed. Many of the materials are available in English and Spanish.
Some of the resources found on I3 are below:
- Child Find Booklet
- What to Expect At An IEP Meeting
- Parent Information for Re-evaluation
- Behavior Intervention Planning Guide for Families
- Functional Behavior Assessment Guide
All Early Intervention Resources for families of children ages 0 -3 are located at:
All Special Education Resources for families of children ages 0 - 21 (Special Education) are located at:
Early ACCESS is a partnership between families with young children, birth to age three, and providers from local Public Health, Human Services, Child Health Specialty Clinics, Area Education Agencies and other community programs. The purpose of this system of services is for families and service providers to work together in identifying, coordinating and providing needed services/resources that will help the family assist their infant or toddler to grow and develop and reach his/her greatest potential. If you are interested in Early ACCESS for your child you can make a referral via E-Mail to email@example.com or by calling 800-632-5918.
The Notice of Procedural Safeguards: Rights of Parents of Students with Disabilities explains the specific rights and responsibilities of the parent in the special education process. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act 2004 (IDEA 2004) requires school districts to give parents the Procedural Safeguards only one time a year, except upon: initial referral or on request for evaluation; the first occurrence of the filing of a due process hearing complaint; or upon request by a parent.
- Early ACCESS Procedural Safeguards Manual for Parents (Updated July 2019)
- Procedural Safeguards Manual: Rights of Parents of Students with Disabilities Ages 3-21 - English (Updated August 2022) Translated versions of the updated document will be available in the coming months.
- Procedural Safeguards Bookmark (Updated August 2022)
- Financial Assistance
- Home & Community Based Waivers
- Autism Resources
- Brain Injury Resources
- Mental Health Services
- Statewide Disability and General Family Support Resources
Medicaid is a program similar to an individual insurance plan for low-income individuals, families and children in Iowa. To be eligible for Medicaid, a child or family must qualify for the Family Investment Program (FIP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medically Needy Program, hawk-i, Foster Care Services, Subsidized Adoption, Long-Term Care, Medicaid for Kids with Special Needs or one of the Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waivers. Medicaid covers a wide range of medical services, medical equipment, medication, dental and other health-related services. Families can apply through the Department of Human Services (DHS). For more information on how to apply, visit DHS "How to Apply." An Income Maintenance Worker may be able assist with the application.
- Medicaid for Kids With Special Healthcare Needs Information
- Hawk-i Information and Income Guidelines for Dental/Medical
Supplemental Security Income
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program of the Social Security Administration. SSI provides monthly benefits to individuals with disabilities who have limited income and resources. Individuals who are eligible for SSI are also eligible for Medicaid. A child under the age of 18 can qualify if he or she has a physical or mental condition, or combination of conditions, that meets Social Security’s definition of disability for children, and if his or her income and resources fall within the eligibility limits. If under age 18, Social Security also considers the income and resources of family members living in the same household. For more information visit SSI Benefits for Children with Disabilities.
Children at Home Grant
The Children at Home Grant is designed to help families secure the services and supports that help their child remain at home. Financial assistance is intended to enable families to obtain services and supports which are not met by other programs.
ARK Advocates provides financial assistance and an equipment lending library to families in and around Dubuque County. More information about their services can be found here. The financial assistance form can be found here.
The Iowa Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS) are Medicaid programs that give families choices about how and where their child receives services. Iowa has several Home and Community Based Waivers that benefit children with disabilities, these include the Brain Injury Waiver, Intellectual Disabilities Waiver, Health and Disability Waiver and Children's Mental Health Waiver. Waivers are available to adults as well. It is important families apply early, as waitlists can be lengthy.
For information about applying for the waiver, please look read the Home and Community Based Waiver Tip Sheet. A downloadable copy of the Medicaid/Wavier application can be found on the Iowa Department of Human Services Website.
The Iowa Secondary Transition Learning Community has put together several brief (3-4 minute) videos that explain what the waivers are, the services and supports they provide and how to apply. The videos can be found at the Iowa Secondary Transition Learning Community Site (click here).
Iowa Regional Autism Program
The Iowa Regional Autism Assistance Program (RAP) provides community-based clinical consultation, multidisciplinary care planning recommendations, and family to family support for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families.
- RAP team members who work with families include advanced registered nurse practitioners, registered nurses and family navigators.
- They use standardized tools to identify children at risk for ASD and help families find diagnostic services.
- RAP teams also help families access community-based services and supports to help meet their needs and goals.
RAP Supporting Materials
- RAP Brochure
- RAP Fact Sheet and Map
- Navigating Iowa's System of Care: A Caregiver's Guid to Autism Spectrum Disorder - First Steps After Diagnosis Handbook
Autism Speaks Housing and Residential Toolkit
- Provides an overview of housing options
- Teaches families about the supports and services often needed by adults with autism
- Describes options for funding
- Creates a structure to help families consider plan for the types of services and supports needed
- Helps expand opportunities to meet the housing needs of people with autism
The toolkit can be found here.
"A Guide for Transition to Adulthood"
Newly updated for 2021, OAR’s Life Journey Through Autism: A Guide for Transition to Adulthood (2nd ed.) provides an overview of the transition to adulthood process for parents who are traveling this path with their child for the first time. The guide includes information about how to:
- Initiate the transition planning process and engage your child, their family and friends, the school’s professional staff, and representatives from adult service systems as members of your child’s transition team.
- Prepare for the changes in available supports and legal protections that accompany the transition to adulthood.
- Center the transition plan around the interests and strengths of your child.
- Equip your child with the self-determination skills they need to advocate for themselves, problem-solve, set goals, and develop a plan for their own future.
- Prepare your child to navigate higher education, employment, independent living, and other relevant aspects of adulthood.
The downloadable guide can be found here.
Brain Injury Alliance
The Brain Injury Alliance of Iowa offers help for people with brain injury and their families, caregivers, and community navigate medical and general life challenges after a brain injury. They offer support in coping with the issues of living with brain injury and connect families with the services and supports they may need.
Child Mind Institute Connect to Care Guide
The "Connect to Care Guide" offers things to look for and a variety of questions families may consider when seeking care from a community mental health or medical provider. The guide can be found at the Child Mind Institute Connect to Care.
Pediatric Integrated Health or Integrated Health Home
Pediatric Integrated Health provides whole health coordinated care for youth and adults with a serious mental illness. Youth must be Medicaid eligible. PIH staff help coordinate behavioral, medical social services and other supports through a team Care Coordinator, Nurse and Family Support Coordinator. They work together with community partners to provide mental health services and supports.
Below are supports that provided coordinated care for families of children with mental health. Each information sheet gives an overview of the the support and how to get started.
Community Circle of Care
Community Circle of Care (CCC) is a regional system of care program providing care coordination for community-based services and support to non-medicaid children and youth with serious or mental health needs in Northeast Iowa. The program services and children and youth up to 21 year old in the following areas: Dubuque, Decorah and Oelwein.
Iowa's Mental Health and Disability Regions
Iowa’s community-based, person-centered mental health and disability services system provides locally delivered services that are regionally managed within statewide standards. Local access to mental health and disability services for adults and children with severe emotional disturbances are provided by established mental health and disability services regions to residents of Iowa regardless of the location of their residence.
The MHDS Regions are responsible for:
- Providing access to a full array of services including crisis services, inpatient and outpatient mental health services, and daily living supports.
- Funding core services for individuals who meet regional eligibility criteria.
- Connecting individuals to services and supports.
To find services in your area, click here.
Habilitation Services is a program that provides home and community based services to youth and adults with a chronic mental illness. The services help individuals with self-help, socialization and adaptive skills necessary to reside in the home and community successfully. Examples of services include assistance with medication management, day habilitation services, and supported employment.
- Habilitation Services FEP Information Sheet
- What is Habilitation Services and How to Apply for Habilitation Services Videos
Mobile Crisis Services
Mobile crisis services are available 24/7 including nights, weekends, and holidays through the crisis hotline. A team of trained staff can be dispatched to a person of any age in crisis. The Mobile Crisis team is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide face-to-face care on an immediate basis. When dispatched, the Mobile Crisis Counselors meet the individual at their home, work, school, or any other location in the community within 1 hour, providing the individual in crisis with the care they need when they need it the most. Mobile Crisis is dispatched through Your Life Iowa. Call (855) 581-8111 or text (855) 895-8390 to access Mobile Crisis through Your Life Iowa to access this service.
Your Life Iowa
Your Life Iowa provides information and referral, counsellng, crisis service coordination, and linkages to crisis screening and mental health services 24 hours a day. Visit Your Life Iowa online at Your Life Iowa Web Site or call (855) 581-8111 to learn more.
Iowa Compass connects people with disabilities and other health-related needs to services and supports in their communities throughout Iowa. Click here to find out about services and resources near you.
Iowa Family Support Network
The State Resource Directory is designed for use by parents and professionals to locate family support resources statewide. Our goal is to help navigate the sometimes overwhelming amount of information on the internet and provide parents and providers a way to link with family support services and resources. The directory includes resources related to education, child care, therapy, financial services, health, parenting program and other family support services. Click here to find services and resources near you.
Iowa Community Resources A Guide for Individuals with Disabilities, Their Families, Guardians and Friends (January 2021)
This guide is designed as a resource to individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities, and their guardians and family members, in finding the information and supports they may need. Click here to access the resource guide.
Find Help is a search engine that assist families in finding a variety of resources within their local zip code. This includes food assistance, help paying bills, and other free or reduced cost programs. Click here to find resources near you.
- Age of Majority and Substitute Decision Making
- General Transition Planning Resources
A normal stage of life is when children become adults and move out of the family home. An individual with a disability may need additional supports to move into a living arrangement that meets their needs. Iowa has many different options to help individuals be as independent as possible, while maintaining their health and safety. A description of housing options from Heartland AEA's Transition Resource Guide can be found here. It’s best to start researching options 2-3 years early, as there are often waiting lists. Acquiring funding (ex. waivers, SSI) to pay for living arrangements, if needed, also takes time. To find housing options in your area visit Iowa Compass or work with son or daughter's Case Manager.
Iowa Home and Community Based Waivers - Adults
Iowa Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) are Medicaid programs that give families and adults access to a variety of services that are not typically covered under insurance. Iowa has several Home and Community Based Waivers that benefit adults with disabilities. Services vary under the different waivers, but can include adult day care, day habilitation, home and vehicle modifications, home health aides, pre-vocational training, Supported Community Living, transportation and more.
The Iowa Secondary Transition Learning Community has put together several brief (3-4 minute) videos that explain what the waivers are, the services and supports they provide and how to apply. The videos can be found at the Iowa Secondary Transition Learning Community Site (click here).
- Home and Community Based Waivers Information Sheet for Families
- Home and Community Based Waivers Comparison Sheet(Comparison of all 7 waivers)
- Iowa Department of Human Services Waiver Website
Supplemental Security Income
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program of the Social Security Administration. SSI provides monthly benefits to individuals with disabilities who have limited income and resources and can be a support for transition-aged students.
- Social Security Web Site
- PACER Center Social Security/Ticket to Work Web Site (this site has a lot of helpful information about applying for SSI)
Office of Disability Services - Post-Secondary Education
As families prepare their son or daughter for post-secondary education it is important they are aware of the differences between the services and supports their young adult receives in high school and what they may receive in a post-secondary educational setting.
While students may be eligible for an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan in high school, there are no such plans in college. The Individuals With Disabilities Act (IDEA) ends once the student graduates from high school. Section of 504 of the Rehabilitation Act offers protections for students with disabilities in high school and college. Students may still be eligible for accommodations under Section 504 at the college level, but they do not typically receive a 504 plan.
When discussing post-secondary education options, it is extremely important that families and students contact Disability Services at each prospective college or university. The Office of Disability Services will help families determine what information or documentation must be provided to secure accommodations. Each college has different requirements. A student having an IEP or 504 plan in high school is not an automatic qualifier for accommodations in a post-secondary setting.
Colleges and universities also offer different types of supports (varying from accessing support in a learning center to disability specific programs). Some of these supports may be at an additional cost to the students. The Disability Services Coordinator can assist families by providing information about the services available, as well as any additional costs may be associated with these services/programs.
Helpful resources regarding disability services in college (links below):
- Clearing Up Misunderstandings About IEPs, 504s & College Accommodations by Elizabeth C. Hamblet
- 7 Things to Know About College Disability Services by Understood.org
- Are there IEPs and 504s in College? by Understood.org
Affordable Colleges Online
Find specific information and resources on a variety of different disabilities, learn how to make the transition into the workforce easier, and find out what your legal rights on campus are. To find college resources for students with disabilities click here.
Iowa Compass - Scholarships
Iowa Compass has a database of scholarships students with disabilities may qualify for. Visit https://iowacompass.org/scholarships/ to learn more.
Last Dollar Scholar
The Last Dollar Scholar is a state-funded program for Iowans who:
- Are recent high school graduates enrolling in an eligible program full-time OR recent high school graduates who are enrolling in an eligible program part-time and are employed in an approved work-based learning program OR adult learners (20 and older) starting an eligible program at least part-time
- Have applied for all other available aid
- Plan to earn a credential for a high-demand job (list of eligible programs)
This program is intended to cover any remaining gap between federal and state grants/scholarships and tuition and qualified fees. Credentials include postsecondary certificates, diplomas and associate degrees. To learn more visit: https://iowacollegeaid.gov/lastdollar.
Proteus provides training and health care services to farm and migrant workers in Indiana, Iowa and Nebraska. Proteus provides access to education services and job training, support, and additional services suited to the customer’s career goals. To learn more about this program, click here.
There are many agencies that can help individuals with disabilities prepare for and find work after high school. Vocational supports may include an evaluation of work skills, training to learn new skills, help in finding a job and help in learning the job once employed.
Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS) works with students with disabilities by providing Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) and individualized VR services in order to assist the student can build the skills needed to be successful in their future career. IVRS works closely with students and their transition team to assist in determining career goals and developing a plan of action to set the student's future in motion.
Services available to assist students include:
Counseling and Guidance Services
Career Exploration Assessments
Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS)
Assistance with Post-Secondary Training
Job Seeking Skills Training
If more intensive services are needed due to a disability, students will be encouraged to apply for IVRS. Eligibility for IVRS is based on a student's barriers in preparing for, getting, or keeping a job. Parents and/ or educators interested in having their student apply for services should contact IVRS to begin the process. To learn more about IVRS, please watch this brief video.
Future Ready Iowa
Future Ready Iowa connects Iowans to the education and training required for good paying jobs and careers to improve people's lives. The Future Ready Iowa goal is to have 70 percent of Iowans with education and training beyond high school by 2025. Future Ready Iowa contains information about scholarships, apprenticeships and career planning tools for high school students. Visit futurereadyiowa.gov for more information.
Iowa Department of the Blind
The Iowa Department for the Blind helps educate, train and empower blind and low vision individuals to pursue lifelong goals. One of their goals is to help clients obtain or retain competitive employment. Most of their services are offered at no cost.
- Iowa Department of the Blind Transition Services Information Sheet
- Iowa Department of the Blind Video
National Parent Center on Transition and Employment
PACER’s National Parent Center on Transition and Employment builds on PACER’s decades of experience provides assistance and support to parents, youth, and professionals on transition topics. This site is has videos, hand-outs and more on postsecondary education, employment, and life in the community.
Age of Majority Information
The age of majority is when your child obtains the rights of any Iowa citizen and is legally responsible for his or her own decision, including educational decision. In Iowa, your child reaches the age of majority when he or she turns 18 or gets married. If your child under 18 is tried, convicted, and sentenced as an adult and is confined in an adult correctional facility, your child’s rights to make educational decisions transfer during the period of incarceration. Question and answer sheets regarding Age of Majority are below:
Graduation Guidance for Families and IEP Teams
Graduation Information and Guidance for Families - Contains an overview of the changes related to graduation for students receiving special education services, along with information about how this will impact students and actions that families might take as they are learning more about this change. In addition, a graduation guidance video was created for families.
Graduation Guidance for IEP Teams - This document provides an overview of state changes to graduation requirements for students eligible for special education and provides considerations for local districts and IEP teams.
Supported Decision Making
Supported Decision Making for Families (new 2021) - This brief booklet explains options and considerations for families and students around supported decision making.
Guardianship and Conservatorship in Iowa - This manual gives an overview of common questions families may have about the various substitute decision-making options available in Iowa.
Central Rivers AEA Family & Educator Partnership Transition Planning Resources
The Family & Educator Partnership places special emphasis on the important transition stages in a child’s education. This includes the transition planning and activities that support students as they transition from high school to adult living, learning and working. Included here are some resources that parents, teachers and students may find helpful.
- Transition From Middle to High School
- Transition Job Skills
- Transition Parent Guide Plan Future
- Transition Questions for Parents
- Transition Self Deter Know Self
- Transition Self Determination Skills
- Transition Self Deter Response
Heartland AEA Transition Planning Guide
This Transition Resource Guide provides information and ideas to assist families and educators with critical transition planning during a student’s high school years in Iowa. The Transition Resource Guide is available to download at https://www.heartlandaea.org/app/uploads/2020/09/Transition_Resource_Guide.pdf.
Transition Iowa is a website for youth and young adults with disabilities, their families and the professionals who support them. The resources found here encourage high expectations and successful outcomes for all students. Visit transitioniowa.org.
Iowa Secondary Transition Learning Community Postsecondary Summary Resources
This site offers a wealth of resources that youth may benefit from after high school. Information includes waivers, Social Security and work incentives, assistive technology, Job Corps, and much more. Visit ISTLC Postsecondary Resources to learn more.
Parent Toolkit is a one-stop resource developed with parents in mind. It’s produced by NBC News Learn and supported by Pearson and includes information about almost every aspect of your child’s development, because they're all connected. Healthy, successful children can excel in many areas – in the classroom, on the court, and in their relationships with peers and adults. Their resources also cover important topics for navigating life after high school.
Understanding the Every Student Succeeds Act Parent Guide
This guide aims to help parents understand the flexibility provided to States and school districts in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a landmark Federal education law.
Department of Education Office of Elementary and Secondary Education Family Site
Family engagement is integral to education efforts aimed at enabling students to achieve their full potential. The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) supports such efforts by funding state and local initiatives to implement evidence-based practices in classrooms to ensure that all students are set up for future success.
Who is a “Surrogate Parent”?
A “surrogate parent” is someone appointed by the Area Education Agency (AEA) whenever a child, who is or may be eligible for services under the IDEA, does not have parent to make important decisions about that child’s special education (Part B) or Early ACCESS (Part C) identification, eligibility, placement, or services.
Surrogate Parent Training for Volunteers
This training provides some basic information about the history of special education and its application in public education today. This will assist those who will be fulfilling the role of a surrogate parent for a student with special education needs.
Resources for Educators:
Little Free Libraries are a global phenomenon. The small, front‐yard book exchanges number 60,000 around the world in 80 countries — from Iceland to Tasmania to Pakistan. Now, three Little Free Libraries will be available to families within Keystone Area Education’s service area. Keystone AEA is excited to join the movement to share books with families and children in our communities.
The Little Free Libraries were sponsored by the Keystone AEA Family & Educator Partnership. The Keystone AEA Family & Educator Partnership assists families and educators in building partnerships to improve educational programs for children and young adults with special needs. In an effort to bring the love of reading to families of children of all ages, the Family and Educator Partnership installed Little Free Libraries to the Dubuque, Elkader and Decorah, Iowa Keystone AEA offices. Each library will feature books for children and youth of all ages.
Please take a book or share a book at one of our 3 Little Free Libraries:
Keystone AEA Dubuque
2310 Chaney Road
Dubuque, Iowa 52001
Keystone AEA Decorah
700 Ridgewood Drive
Decorah, IA 52101
Keystone AEA Elkader
1400 Second Street Northwest
Elkader, Iowa 52043
The Little Free Library nonprofit organization has been honored by the Library of Congress, the National Book Foundation, and the American Library Association, and Reader’s Digest named them one of the “50 Surprising Things We Love about America.” Each year, nearly 10 million books are shared in Little Free Libraries. To learn more, please visit littlefreelibrary.org.