California Early Start: Making a Difference

Early Start is the California program responsible for ensuring that early intervention services to infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families are provided statewide in a coordinated and family-centered system.

Early intervention services are provided under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part C —the Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities. Infants and toddlers from birth to 36 months may be eligible for early intervention services if they have a developmental delay in either cognitive, communication, social or emotional, adaptive, or physical and motor development including vision and hearing or they have an established risk condition with a high probability of resulting in delayed development.

Each state receiving IDEA funds is required to identify a “lead agency” responsible for seeing that the purposes and provisions of IDEA are fulfilled and that, to the maximum extent possible, services are provided in a child’s natural environment. In California, the Governor identified the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) as the Part C lead agency, responsible for monitoring and implementation of this comprehensive, interagency, community-based, and family focused system of services to eligible infants and toddlers. DDS shares administrative responsibility for delivery of services with the California Department of Education (CDE), which is the lead agency for IDEA Part B that serves pre-kindergarten children through age 21.

DDS identified CEITAN—the California Early Intervention Technical Assistance Network, a program of the WestEd Center for Prevention & Early Intervention (CPEI), to implement CSPD through a robust program of training and technical assistance.