Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Community and Family Health

Major Professor

Karen Perrin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Russell Kirby, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Martha Coulter, Dr.PH.

Committee Member

Rajan Wadhawan, M.D.


Developmental delay, preterm birth, prompt access, developmental screening, developmental surveillance


Early intervention services are important in obtaining better outcomes for infants with a developmental delay or a condition that may result in a delay. In Florida, a primary resource for providing these services is the Early Steps Program. This study analyzed the Early Steps referral process to identify barriers to prompt access. The guiding hypothesis was if differences exist in key outcomes of the referral process, then these differences may reveal where improvements can be made. Improving access to early intervention should produce better outcomes and reduce the costs of services required later by addressing developmental concerns earlier.

The dataset included records for 10,688 infants referred to the Hillsborough County Early Steps Program between 2006 and 2009. Two measures (age at referral and time to IFSP) represented points within the referral process where delays could be quantified. Age at referral is a measure of how long it takes for a delay to be identified and the infant referred for evaluation. The time from the referral to the date an IFSP is created provides a measure of the delay in beginning services.

Delays in obtaining a referral were associated with being referred by a family member, the referral code Developmental Delay At Risk and barrier codes Child/Family Issues and No Show/Unsuccessful Contact. Delays in completing the IFSP were related to being younger at referral, being referred by one of the sources that made less frequent referrals to Early Steps, an eligibility determination related to behavior concerns, maternal education that stopped at grade 8 or below and being Black.