EARLY START PROGRAM
The Early Start Program is California's response to federal legislation ensuring that Early Start services to infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families are provided in a coordinated, family-centered system of services that are available statewide.
New to Early Start? View the list of dates for New Parent Orientations here.
Infants and toddlers from birth to 36 months may be eligible for Early Start services if, through documented evaluation and assessment, they meet one of the criteria listed below:
*High Risk for developmental disability also exists when a multidisciplinary team determines that the parent of an infant or toddler is a person with a developmental disability and the infant or toddler requires early start services based on evaluation and assessment.
In order to determine your child’s eligibility, ELARC will conduct a comprehensive intake process including evaluation of your child’s developmental level and a review of available medical records/history. The Early Start Program Application contains the forms required for ELARC to initiate the intake process. Upon submitting a completed Early Start Program Application, an Early Start Coordinator or support staff will contact you to schedule an intake appointment. Call (626) 299-4777 for information regarding the application process.
Apply for Early Start Services
Anyone can make a referral to the Early Start Program, including parents, health care providers, neighbors, family members, foster parents, day care providers, other interested parties. The first step is for parents to discuss their concerns with their health care provider/pediatrician.
- Parents may obtain the Early Start Program Application here
- Agencies may fax Early Start referrals to (626) 299-4798.
The Early Start Intake Department may be reached at (626) 299-4777 or (626) 299-4691 with any questions.
If the child has a visual impairment, hearing impairment, or severe orthopedic impairment, or any combination of these, contact the school district for evaluation and Early Start services. Click here to view the LA County District Locator.
After Application is Submitted
Within 45-days of receiving an Early Start Application/referral, ELARC will take the following steps:
- Assign a service coordinator to assist the family through evaluation and assessment procedures.
- Schedule and complete evaluations and assessments for the child's development to assist in determining Early Start eligibility.
- If an infant or toddler is eligible for Early Start services, an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) will be developed that addresses the strengths and needs of the infant or toddler, parent concerns, and identifies required Early Start services.
- If an infant or toddler is not eligible for Early Start services, the parents will be notified and informed of any recommendations.
EARLY START SERVICES
Early Start services are designed to enable you to better address your child's unique needs. YOU are the most important person in your child's life and the relationship between parent and child is an important focus of Early Intervention. Your Early Start service providers will provide ideas and support so that you can help your child learn the skills that you think are most important. (Adapted from "Take A Minute" campaign). Click here to view "Take a Minute: Relationships Matter." Click here for the flyer in Spanish, "Tomate un Minuto."
An Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) shall be developed for providing required Early Start services based on the child’s assessed developmental needs as well as the family’s concerns and priorities. Regional centers shall provide, arrange, or purchase required Early Start services, as identified in the child’s IFSP. Families are required to use their private insurance or health service plan for medical services identified in the IFSP, other than for evaluation and assessment, in compliance with applicable federal and state law and regulation(Government Code Section 95004).
Parent-to-parent support and resource information may also be available through Early Start Family Resource Centers. Click here for more information regarding Family Resource Centers in California. Contact the FRC at (626) 300-9171 for more information about available services and hours of operation. Click here to link to the Eastern Los Angeles Family Resource Center page.
Based on the child's assessed developmental needs and the families concerns and priorities as determined by each child's Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) team, Early Start services may include:
- assistive technology
- family training, counseling, and home visits
- health services
- medical services for diagnostic/evaluation purposes only
- nursing services
- nutrition services
- occupational therapy
- physical therapy
- psychological services
- service coordination (case management)
- social work services
- special instruction
- speech and language services
- transportation and related costs
- vision services
Cost for Early Start Services
There is no cost for evaluation, assessment and service coordination. Public or private insurance is accessed for medically necessary therapy services including speech, physical and occupational therapies. Required Early Start services that are not covered by insurance will be purchased or provided by regional centers or local education agencies.
An Annual Family Program Fee (AFPF) may be assessed in some circumstances. AFPF is to be assessed for families of children between the ages of 0-17 receiving qualifying services through a regional center. This program fee is required by California Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) Section 4785.
Additional language within this section requires that a single AFPF be assessed per family, regardless of the number of children in the family with developmental disabilities or who are eligible under the California Early Intervention Services Act (Early Start Program).
Links & Resources
Social Emotional Development
Early Start Links
- Department of Developmental Services Early Start
- Family Resource Center Networks of California
- California Children's Services (CCS)
Parenting and Child Development Links
- PBS Parent
- Zero to Three
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- American Speech Hearing Language Association (ASHA)
- Autism Society of America LA: Birth to Age 3
- Parent Center Hub (formerly NICHCY)
- California Department of Education
Family Resource Center
Emergency Preparedness for Caregivers
The California Child Care Disaster Plan is an Annex to the State of California Emergency Plan. It provides guidance for communication and coordination of key state agencies in the event of a disaster that affects the child care infrastructure. How to Plan for Emergencies and Disasters is a step-by-step guide with resources and information to support child care providers, children in their care, and their families before, during, and after a disaster or emergency. The Emergency Plan Library is a collection of forms, checklists, handouts, and other disaster planning tools. These materials can be downloaded for free and are available in English and Spanish. Click here for all the information.