Health Manager Orientation Guide

Individualized Planning for CSHCN

Young boy running on a dirt path.After identifying a child with special health care needs, the process of individualized health care planning can address the child’s unique health care needs. It can also provide that child the opportunity to reach their potential in the safest and least restrictive environment. Individualized health care planning is an important communication process between the Head Start program staff, family, and health care providers.

Individualized planning leads to better:

  • Communication and collaboration
  • Health promotion
  • Prevention of complications
  • Identification of training needs and assistance that supports both staff and the family’s self-efficacy or confidence in the care of the CSHCN

Documentation of individualized health care planning is typically done through an IHP that is developed collaboratively with the health care provider, Head Start program, and family. The IHP is an essential resource for the Head Start program staff caring for the child with special health care. Some programs call the IHP by a different name, but the components are the same.

The Individual Healthcare Plan (IHP) is a resource for all staff, including substitutes, who care for a CSHCN to support their understanding of the specific special health care needs, accommodations, treatments, medications needed, and safety issues.

A child should have an IHP if they have a need for:

  • Staff to know about their health concern
  • Adaptations in daily activities because of a health condition
  • Accommodations, treatments, or medications while at the program
  • A plan to address health emergencies

The following people should contribute to the development and review of the IHP:

  • The child’s family
  • Staff that care for the child, including substitutes
  • Health staff and consultants
  • Health care providers
  • Other service providers or Head Start staff as needed

Here are the key parts of an IHP:

  • Child and family contact information
  • The child’s diagnosis or diagnoses
  • Contact information for primary health care providers, specialists, and service providers 
  • Details about accommodations throughout the daily routine, medications (routine and emergency), and medical procedures the child may need during their time at the program
  • Allergies
  • Dietary modifications
  • Emergency plans
  • Special instructions
  • Resources to learn more about medical conditions or procedures
  • Signatures of the person preparing the IHP, teachers and staff who reviewed and received training on the IHP, and the family

Tips and Strategies to Support Individualized Planning for CSHCN

  • Consider the health literacy of the primary users of the IHP (e.g., staff).
    • Avoid using confusing technical and medical terms or clearly define them.
    • Provide simple, easy to follow information and instructions.
    • Provide additional resources and visuals to support the IHP.
  • Identify IHP templates or samples, especially for common health care needs such as asthma, severe allergies, and seizures.
  • Use the IHP to identify the knowledge and skills teachers and caregivers need to support the child’s safe participation in daily activities. Regular and ongoing communication with educators is critical for both the staff and child.
  • Ensure all staff understand medication administration policies and practices. Any staff who has not been trained to administer medication should know who to contact when a child needs medication.
  • Identify experts who can support your program’s individualized health care planning through assessment, development of IHPs, and staff training. These experts may include:
    • Health manager
    • Health staff
    • Child care health consultants
    • Health Services Advisory Committee (HSAC) members
    • Other Head Start program staff
    • Health care providers
    • Service providers
    • Organizations or programs that provide support for specific conditions, such as a children’s hospital support group
  • Use the experience and expertise of the child’s family, who are likely to be familiar with routine and urgent medical procedures, accommodations, and medications. They can provide information including:
    • Tips on how to administer medication to their child, such as a song or ritual they use
    • Specific signs that it is time to give an as-needed medication
    • Emergency symptoms that staff would need to address immediately
  • Include planning for special situations such as field trips, outdoor time, emergency drills and evacuations, and transportation in the IHP.
  • Regularly review the plan with staff to ensure everyone knows the location of the plan and details about medications. Answer questions and discuss any challenges that emerge in implementing the plan. Consider how substitutes and new teachers receive training on the plan and stay up to date with changes.
  • Regularly connect with staff and family members for updates.
  • Update the plan at least annually and when there are any changes, such as to health provider contact information, the child’s health history, medication, and treatment.