Date of Award

Fall 12-10-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

EdD Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


James Caulfield, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Christopher Tienken, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Barbara Strobert, Ed.D.


Early Intervention, Family-centered care, Part C services, Administrators, Parent-professional partnership, Service delivery


Family-centered care, the mandated delivery approach outlined under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part C, is considered best practice in providing services to families with children under three with special needs. It has been shown to benefit children and families through numerous positive outcomes. Yet, family-centered care is not implemented in all programs universally, and significant variation exists in how programs deliver family-centered services, to the detriment of families. Much of that variation can be attributed to programmatic leadership, as administrators establish the philosophy, policies, practices, and organizational climate of an agency.

This project intended to build on the limited research regarding the role administrators have in delivering family-centered Part C services by exploring administrators’ definition and viewed purpose of family-centered care, identified challenges to providing family-centered services, ways the obstacles were negotiated, and how those factors impacted the implementation of family-centered programming. In this qualitative case study, 21 administrators of New York City Part C programs anonymously completed a web-based questionnaire that was used to elicit narrative and demographic data. The data were examined using Creswell’s (2003, 2008) six stages of qualitative data analysis and descriptive statistics.

The results reaffirmed previous research (Mandell & Murray, 2009), which found that how administrators conceptualize family-centered care reflects how it is implemented in programs. This demonstrates the influential role administrators have in the delivery of family-centered services. The data revealed New York City Part C administrators conceptualized family-centered care as a means of including and engaging families in programming to teach families intervention strategies to carry over into the child’s natural environment for the benefit of the child. The categories of practices that were least frequently implemented in programs involved supporting and partnering with families, which are the fundamental elements of a family-centered service delivery approach. The results implied programs operated under a family-allied or family-focused, family-oriented program model as outlined by Dunst and his colleagues (1991), which is consistent with previous research on programs that provide services to families with young children who have special needs. The data suggested potential contradictions regarding how administrators perceived families, how staff were viewed, between rhetoric and practice, and in practices that could support staff to provide family-centered programming. Characteristics of administrators and programs were identified that appeared to influence the delivery of family-centered services. These factors deserve attention in practice as well as in further research. The data suggested there is room for growth in the delivery of family-centered care in New York City Part C programs and in policies that would facilitate programs to provide family-centered Early Intervention services. Last, although this study was focused on Part C programs, family-centered care can be beneficial to the educational community beyond the early childhood years by serving as a platform for education personnel to use to develop collaborative partnerships with families, thus improving academic achievement.