California Department of Developmental Services

The California Department of Developmental Services (DDS) provides leadership and direction to nonprofit organizations to ensure that infants, toddlers, children, and adults with developmental disabilities receive the services and supports they need as envisioned by the California Early Intervention Services Act and the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act.

The disabilities of the children and adults served include intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism and related conditions and, for infants and toddlers under age 3, established risks, developmental delays, or disabilities. DDS contracts with 21 regional centers that provide, arrange, or purchase services and supports at the local level.

Monitoring and Family Services Branch

DDS, as lead agency for Early Start, administers and coordinates a wide array of services for eligible infants and toddlers who have a developmental delay or disability or established risk or, who are at high risk. The Monitoring and Family Services Branch coordinates California’s early intervention service system. Under Part C of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), DDS is responsible for the planning, development, implementation, and monitoring of the statewide system of early intervention services in collaboration with the California Department of Education. DDS administers all mandatory and discretionary components required under IDEA including public awareness, personnel development, and interagency agreements with participating agencies and community-based organizations. DDS is also responsible for implementing procedural safeguards that protect the rights of children and families and for receiving and resolving complaints.

DDS maintains a toll-free BabyLine (800-515-BABY) and website (ceitan-earlystart.org) that provide information about California’s Early Start system of services, including resources and referrals. DDS also contracts with local Early Start family resource centers across the state.

Regional Centers

Infants and toddlers, from birth up to 36 months, who have a developmental delay or established risk, or who are at high risk may be eligible to receive services through California’s 21 community-based regional centers. DDS contracts with nonprofit corporations that operate the regional centers.

Regional centers are the single point of entry into the service system that serves people with developmental disabilities across all ages. Regional centers provide intake, evaluation, and assessment to determine eligibility and service needs. They also provide service coordination, advocacy, information, referral, and an array of other services to eligible infants and toddlers and their families.

Early intervention services are provided, purchased, or arranged by regional centers based on the unique needs of the child and family. Early intervention services that are not available through other publicly funded agencies are generally purchased from community service providers who are registered vendors with the regional center.

Regional centers coordinate with local education agencies (LEAs) and other local agencies and organizations in evaluation, assessment, development of individualized family service plans, and service provision. For children who are dually served by a regional center and an LEA, basic special education and related services are usually provided by the LEA. Either regional centers or LEAs may be designated to provide service coordination. The regional center may also provide additional early intervention services or other available state services based on the needs of the child and family.

Early Start Family Resource Centers

Families of infants and toddlers, from birth up to 36 months, who have a developmental delay or established risk, or who are at high risk can receive parent-to-parent support from family resource centers (FRCs). FRCs that receive Early Start funding actively collaborate with local regional centers and educational agencies to help parents, families, and children access early intervention services.

Early Start FRCs are staffed by parents who have children with special needs and who provide parent-to-parent support, information about disabilities and early intervention, and help with accessing services. Each FRC is unique, responding to the needs of its community. FRCs may operate as independent sites or be based in regional centers, local education agencies, public health facilities, hospitals, or homes. Services are available in many languages and are culturally responsive to the needs of the individual family.

Early Start FRCs contracted by DDS may provide:

  • Parent-to-parent and family support
  • Peer counseling and home visits
  • Information and referral
  • Public awareness
  • Parent education
  • Support services in many languages
  • Transition assistance
  • Support services in urban and rural communities
  • Prevention resource and referral services

Some FRCs have newsletters, resource libraries, and websites, as well as parent and/or sibling support groups and telephone “warmlines” or “babylines.”

In addition, the Family Resource Centers Network of California (FRCNCA) is a coalition of the state’s FRCs. The mission of FRCNCA is to support children with special needs and their families by ensuring the continuance, expansion, promotion, and quality of family-centered, parent-directed FRCs.