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About Part C

Early Identification and Referral

About Part C

Early Identification and Referral

This page was last updated on May 2, 2017 at 7:26 am


Know the System

The Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities (Part C of IDEA) is a federal grant program that was established in 1986. The program assists states in operating a comprehensive statewide program of early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities, ages birth through age 2 years, and their families. In order for a state to participate in the program it must assure that early intervention will be available to every eligible child and its family. Also, the governor must designate a lead agency to receive the grant and administer the program, and appoint an Interagency Coordinating Council (ICC), including parents of young children with disabilities, to advise and assist the lead agency. Currently, all states and eligible territories are participating in the Part C program. Annual funding is based upon census figures of the number of children in the general population, ages birth through two.  

States have some discretion in setting the criteria for child eligibility, including whether or not to serve at risk children. As a result, definitions of eligibility differ significantly from state to state. States also differ concerning which state agency has been designated "lead agency" for the Part C program. In fact, statewide early intervention systems differ in many ways from state to state.

Identifying eligible children  

 “Child find” language has been part of IDEA since 1997 and has focused on raising awareness of available services and linking with other entities to increase program referrals.  States are required to develop and implement a “comprehensive child find system”, which must include policies and procedures for determining child eligibility for services and methods for determining which children are receiving services; coordination with other state agencies, referrals for evaluation and assessment; and procedures for making referrals by primary referral sources, including hospitals, physicians, parents, local education agencies, public health facilities, social service agencies, and other health care providers (Early Intervention Program, 2002).  These requirements indicate two approaches to the organization of child find: efforts to reach out and locate eligible children (inside/out efforts) and procedures instituted to promote referrals to early intervention or preschool special education (outside/in efforts).  The term child find is used to label inside/out efforts and referral to label outside/in efforts. (Dunst & Trivette, 2004). 

Current emphasis on evidence-based practices has caused Part C providers to look carefully at what they have been doing to find out what works.  Programs have examined their own efforts and have also looked to other disciplines to identify successful strategies for reaching potential consumers.  That work has produced guidelines that delineate and describe the elements of a comprehensive child find system.  These elements include:

·  Definition of the target population

·  Public awareness

·  Referral and intake

·  Screening and identification

·  Eligibility determination

·  Tracking

·  Interagency coordination [1]

The goal of the work conducted by TRACE (Tracking, Referral and Assessment Center for Excellence) has been to “identify and promote the use of evidence-based practices and models for improving child find, referral, early identification, and eligibility determination for infants, toddlers and young children with developmental delays or disabilities who are eligible for early intervention or preschool special education”.[2]  Table 1 describes important terms and lists categories of practices associated with each. A review of the table may suggest an area around which you may wish to develop activities.

TABLE 1: Terms and Practices from TRACE Categorization Scheme 


Major Categories of Practices

Child Findthe methods and procedures used by Part C or Part B (619) programs to locate infants, toddlers and preschoolers who are in need of, or potentially in need of, Part C early intervention o r Part B (619) preschool education.  The term refers specifically to the efforts and activities of program practitioners that locate, identify, and promote referrals to early intervention o r preschool special education programs.

Public Awareness

Outreach Programs

Community-Based Screening Programs

Risk Registries

Tracking Programs

Partnerships and Collaborative Projects

Referral – the procedures or steps taken by an individual  or group on behalf of an infant, toddler or preschooler to obtain  the opinion, supports or services of another individual or group for  a child; encompasses a range of activities influencing decision-making processes used  by primary referral sources to recommend or  suggest provision of early intervention or special education and the decisions made by parents to seek out early childhood intervention program practitioner opinion or advice

Referral  Systems

Primary Referral Sources

Health Care Planning

Physician Education

Policy and Position Statements

Early Identificationa broad range of methods, procedures, and practices used to determine the presence of a condition or identified disability that results in a developmental delay or places a child at risk for a developmental delay or poor outcomes.

Screening Practices

Parent Appraisals

Risk Assessments

Teaming/Assessment Models

Assessment Methods

Eligibility – the procedures and criteria used to determine if a child meets the definitions for Part C or Part B (619) program enrollment

Eligibility Determination

Eligibility Definitions

Eligibility Policies and Practices

 (Adapted  from material by Dunst & Trivette in TRACElines/Volume 1/Number 2/August 2004)

Potential Collaboration Opportunities

A variety of opportunities exist for collaboration between state and Multi-State Deaf-Blind Technical Assistance Projects and Part C Programs. Table 2 provides an overview of the Part C process from initial referral through provision of intervention services. It lists the individuals involved in each step of the process as well as suggestions for the type of technical assistance your project might provide. It is important to tailor technical assistance and related materials to match not only the recipient (e.g. family member, social worker, related service provider) but also the particular aspect of the process being addressed (e.g. determining eligibility, home visit planning). Input from families who have been through the Part C system and/or partnering with Part C providers can be very beneficial in developing TA materials and training.   

Table 2: Part C Process Overview




Referral and Intake

·  Initial referral

·  Complete initial paperwork (basic child/family info, phone call or electronic submission)

·  Intake interview (typically face-to-face to gather more detailed child/family info)

·  Referral source (e.g. family member, Early Head Start,  friend, health care provider)

·  Family and child

·  Service Coordinator, social worker or family support person

Awareness materials:

·  Risk factors

·  “Red flag” medical terms


·  Interview questions/strategies for obtaining accurate vision and hearing information

·  Recognizing risk factors, eye/ear appearance and behaviors related to hearing and vision concerns


·  To determine eligibility

·  Multidisciplinary team approach (core team plus additional specialists based on diagnosis or concerns)

·  Includes observation and input from family/primary caregiver(s)

·  Child and Family

·  Psychologist and/or Developmental Specialist, OT, PT, SLP

·  Vision specialist, audiologist, nutritionist, interpreters

Awareness materials:

·  Etiologies, Risk factors

·  A-B-Cs (Appearance, Behaviors and Conditions associated w/DB)


·  Appropriate tools and strategies for evaluating children with sensory loss and/or multiple disabilities


·  To determine intervention needs

·  To monitor progress

·  Provide information for IFSP reviews

·  Child and Family

·  Multidisciplinary team (initial assessment)

·  Early intervention team

  (progress monitoring and 

  IFSP reviews)


·  Appropriate assessment tools and strategies

Provide/Interpret Functional Vision and Hearing Assessments

Early Intervention Program

·  Emphasis is on modeling and coaching family/caregiver(s)

·  Settings include home, day care center, therapy program

·  Maximize child preferences, daily routines and naturally occurring opportunities

·  Child and Family

·  Other care providers

·  Early intervention providers

Training (general or child-specific)

·  Setting up the Environment, Trust, Communication, Concept Development, Early Literacy, Hand-under-hand, etc.

Observation and Consultation

·  Onsite or video (DMP model)

 Purvis, 2012

Adapted from: The Sooner the Better: Effective Strategies for Identifying Infants and Young Children with Combined Vision and Hearing Loss; Barbara Purvis, M.Ed., National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness, Sept 2007.


ECTA: Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center;; Retrieved 8/30/2013.

Dunst & Trivette (2004). Toward a categorization scheme of child find, referral, early identification and eligibility determination practices. TRACElines 1(2). 

 Bourland and Harbin (1987). START resource packet: Child Find. Retrieved 5/12/2007 from OSEP’s IDEA website at

[1] Adapted from START resource packet: Child Find by B. Bourland and G. Harbin, 1987; retrieved 5/12/2007 from OSEP’s IDEA website at .

[2] TRACE Home Page (2006); retrieved 5/12/2007 from .

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