Interagency Collaboration in Early Intervention: Participants' perspectives

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This qualitative study was an exploratory effort to investigate interagency collaboration in early intervention from a developmental view, and it applied Bronfenbrenner's (1995) bioecological paradigm as the underlying conceptual framework. The purpose of this study was to examine factors that facilitated collaboration and factors that interfered with it from the perspectives of agency representatives on a local Interagency Coordinating Council (ICC) in a northeastern state. Data collection included interviews with 22 members on the ICC, participant observations of meetings, and document analysis. Data were analyzed by the constant comparison procedure. The factors that emerged in this study are consistent with those identified in the literature. However, because of the differences across early intervention systems, the extent of the impact of factors varied greatly. Also, most influential factors interacted with each other to jointly influence collaboration. Thus understanding and improving collaboration require being aware of the way in which factors interact, observing the scope and duration of their impact, and considering the feasibility of change. Overall, the findings of this study agreed with previous research: (a) training in collaboration is necessary, (b) assessment of needs and influences of factors is needed, (c) the role of the ICC is important, (d) awareness of initiatives of collaboration should be promoted, and (e) ecological contexts influence providers' attitudes toward collaboration and need to be further explored. Other implications of this study included the importance of allocation of funding to work on collaboration, funding and mentorship support for leaders, installation of structural mechanisms for collaboration, education for professionals and parents to work together, communication among evaluation teams, service agencies and the lead agency, and opportunities for first-line workers to establish personal connections.