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November 2009Vol. 10, No. 9Using Part C Services for Social-Emotional Well-Being

Considerable variation exists in how States define "developmental delay" for the purpose of identifying infants and toddlers eligible for services through the Early Intervention Program for Infant and Toddlers With Disabilities, which is Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Research suggests that a significant gap exists between the number of children who need Part C services and those who actually receive them, especially services to address children's social and emotional needs.

In an effort to determine how States make decisions about providing Part C services to address social and emotional well-being of toddlers and infants, the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) recently sponsored a study and published the results in Promoting Social-Emotional Wellbeing in Early Intervention Services. The study's authors surveyed Part C coordinators from 48 States to determine whether States were maximizing current policies, including fiscal policies, to integrate social-emotional developmental strategies into early intervention services. The coordinators reported on their States' efforts to support:

  • Screening, referral, and evaluation
  • Strategies within the early intervention service continuum covered by Part C
  • Services and supports for children who are at risk but ineligible for Part C

According the survey results, 70 percent of States recommend using validated screening tools to detect social-emotional developmental delays, yet many States also recommend screening tools that are not standardized. Nearly 90 percent of States work to promote early identification by primary care physicians. However, only eight States include at-risk children as eligible for Part C services, and only 17 of the remaining States have written agreements in place to guide referral and services for young children who are at-risk for social-emotional developmental delays but ineligible for Part C services. The report offers a number of legislative and research recommendations for increasing services to infants and toddlers with social-emotional developmental delays.

Promoting Social-emotional Wellbeing in Early Intervention Services: A Fifty-State View was written by Janice L. Cooper and Jessica Vick and is available on the NCCP website: