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Montana Family Support Services Advisory Council (FSSAC) / Part C Early Intervention
Developmental Disabilities Program
Department of Public Health and Human Services
The mission of the Family Support Services Advisory Council is to provide consumer and professional guidance to local and State agencies who plan and provide services that support families in raising their children with developmental disabilities at home within Montana 's communities. In 1986, Montana already had a 10-year history of providing services to children with developmental disabilities and their families. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was established at the federal level in 1986, partly in response to the national move toward deinstitutionalization for people with disabilities. The program opened a window of opportunity through which states could access substantial federal dollars to develop and support services which would help families raise their child within their own family context. The driving philosophy behind the federal legislation was the belief that a child, with or without disabilities, is better off raised within a family . The federal legislation also recognized the immense cost benefits of helping families rather than supporting institutions. Best of all, the federal program requires no state match in funding. Montana 's Legislature has maintained a commitment to the program since 1989, through several changes in state administration. During state fiscal year 2005, the program touched the lives of over thirteen hundred Montana families whose children have disabilities such as Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, fetal alcohol syndrome, and a host of other disabling conditions. The Family Support Services Advisory Council was established to advise and assist the lead agency for disability services in Montana – the Developmental Disabilities Program (DDP) of the Department of Public Health and Human Services – in the implementation of Part C services statewide. The Council consists of approximately twenty-five members appointed by the Governor, all of whom have an interest in and expertise about the provision of services to families of children with disabilities. The Council meets in Helena quarterly and has six members who are parents of children with disabilities, six members who are providers of services, a legislative representative who provides liaison with the Montana State Legislature, and several state and local agency members who represent local, state, and federal government services (Head Start, Early Head Start, Medicaid, Child Care, Office of Public Instruction) which have a related interest in service provision to children with disabilities.