Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Ecology

First Advisor

Diane C. Burts

Second Advisor

Rosalind Charlesworth


While both the federal and Louisiana state infant/toddler legislation and early childhood special education best practices literature of the late eighties and nineties provided impetus for family-centered early intervention, neither provided specific guidelines on how professionals were to implement the same. In order for early interventionists to provide effective services to individual families they must be able to evaluate and understand how each family they served defined an individualized family service plan as being family centered. This qualitative study extended the knowledge and constructed an understanding of how select families in the Acadiana area, whose children were Part H eligible, defined family-centered early intervention services, based on their experiences and interactions with family members and systems outside the family. Family diversities, such as socioeconomic status, gender, geographic location, and ethnic background, generated both similarities and differences in the definitions. Specifically, participant observation of early intervention sessions, individual interviews with families, and document analysis (Spradley, 1979, 1980) were used over the four month period of this study. Eight families participated in the study including three of African American and five of European American ethnic backgrounds. Four of the five European American families were of Acadiana heritage. The other demographics of the families were evenly divided between rural and urban residents and low and middle socioeconomic status. Two fathers and six mothers were a part of the group. All of these eight families wanted in some way to define the framework of their child's early intervention program including what services were needed, the intensity of the services, and their own level of involvement. The desire for control crossed gender, locale, socioeconomic status, and ethnic lines. These selected families wanted professionals to listen to them, to provide them choices, and respond to their concerns. The family service coordination system was not working for these families. They needed an early intervention program sensitive to their unique preferences. Family-centered intervention required an understanding of their preferences as they had developed from the interaction of their diversities and experiences.