A day in the life of a service coordinator: Jenni arrives at work early to prepare for an initial assessment, making sure the paperwork is ready in case an IFSP is developed too. After the 2-hour assessment and IFSP meeting, she drives 40 minutes to her next visit with a family and their OT. The visits runs long as the family requests assistance with groceries to get them through the end of the month. Since they have no family nearby, Jenni offers to search for some resources and call the mother later. After a quick lunch in the car, Jenni heads back to the office where she finds 3 voicemail messages from a family and two service providers requesting IFSP meetings to review outcomes. She writes contact notes for the morning’s activities, returns the calls, makes an additional call to a family for her monthly contact, and does some research on local food pantries. She also sends the IFSP developed that morning to the physician and service provider agency so that the child’s speech therapy will start soon. In the midst of her busy day, she also receives two new referrals and is able to reach one of them to schedule an intake visit for next week. Before she leaves for the day, she calls the family she saw that morning with a list of phone numbers for local food pantries and promises to touch base with the family again tomorrow to see if they are able to find the help they need.
Whew! What a day, huh?
Service Coordination is Multi-Faceted
While not every day is like this, service coordinators are generally busy people. They have many roles they play including leader of the IFSP team. In some programs, they work in dual roles as both service providers (like educators or therapists) and service coordinators. They work with many different kinds of families, with service providers from different backgrounds, and within systems that have varying requirements for documentation, billing, team functioning, etc. They must be experts on the EI process and how to adapt it for each family. They must know community resources and how to help families access them. They need to plan their time efficiently for office time, travel, and visits with children and families. While juggling all of these realities, they must also be able to build strong, sensitive relationships with families and providers so that IFSPs are implemented in ways that meet the changing needs of children and families. It’s a multi-faceted job that requires a great deal of knowledge and skill!
It’s BOTH Wonderful & Challenging
When I think about being a service coordinator, I remember finding the job to be both wonderful and challenging, sometimes in the same day! On the wonderrful side of things, here’s what I loved:
Building relationships with families that helped them grow – Service coordinators may not seem like teachers but they are. They help families learn skills like advocacy and how to find resources that families can use long after they leave the EI program.
No two days were ever the same – Everyday is different with new opportunities to see a child master a new milestone, help a parent achieve a goal, or help a team solve a problem.
Working with a team that focused on the child’s & family’s success – There was nothing better than observing and celebrating a child’s progress as a team (which of course included the family). Each of us played a part in something that could have a long-term impact on the child’s life and that was powerful.
Of course, there were challenges too. Sometimes the number of families I supported overwhelmed me or the resources I wished I had in my community just weren’t there. On other days, managing the paperwork or traveling a long distance to see a family who was not home were not my favorite parts of the job. Every job has it’s challenges, though. When the challenges got to me, I’d try to focus on the many positives, like the card I’d received from a family thanking me for my time with them or the picture another family sent me of their son on his first day of preschool. I knew I’d made a difference.
What do you like most about being a service coordinator? What do you find most challenging and why?
For more information about service coordination, visit the Service Coordination page on the VA Early Intervention Professional Development Center.