Remarkable progress has been made in the development of comprehensive and coordinated services to young children with disabilities (Smith & McKenna, 1994). Thirty years ago, early intervention programs were virtually nonexistent; today, families in every community nationwide can make use of services that are designed to meet the developmental needs of their child and to support them in enhancing their child's development. A combination of interacting factors has enabled the growth and evolution of services (Harbin, 1993; Meisels & Shonkoff, 1990). Research, technical assistance, advocacy, as well as the political and social context combined in the enactment of sweeping federal legislation (Garwood & Sheehan, 1989; Harvin, 1993). This public policy, now entitled Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), is intended to increase the number of children receiving services, to identify children in need of services as early as possible, and to improve services for children and families by making those services more comprehensive, coordinated, and family centered. The legislation required numerous changes in service delivery and modifications in how many professionals perform their jobs (Bailey, 1989; Dokecki & Heflinger, 1989; Gallagher, Harbin, Thomas, Clifford, & Wenger, 1988; Hanft, 1989; Hurley, 1989).
As many policy researchers and advocates discovered, the enactment of legislation and the implementation of that legislation are very different processes (Campbell & Mazoni, 1976; Elmore, 1978; Harbin, Gallagher, & Batista, 1992; Meisels, 1985, 1989; Weatherly, 1979).