What is “Child Find”?

How many of you have heard of “Child Find”?

Child Find” is an important part of Early Invention. The simple explanation is: “Child Find” is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), to continuously search for and evaluate children who may have a disability.

The primary purpose of IDEA is to ensure that all children with a disability, birth through age 21, receive free appropriate education, including special education and related services that meet their unique needs preparing them for further education, employment and independent living.

Another purpose is to help states implement a statewide, comprehensive, coordinated multi-disciplinary system of Early Intervention services for young children with disabilities.

As early childhood educators, we know that the earlier the intervention the better for the child. What we might not know is the process regarding referrals, evaluations and services.

How is Child Find Implemented?

Each state had to devise a method/system to determine which children are receiving the needed special education services and which are not. In Maine, this starts with identifying children who may need services and completing evaluations at no cost to families.

Public awareness and professional training are critical for successful Child Find programs. Part of the work includes reaching families through public notices and direct outreach to the early childhood educators, especially those who are working with infants and toddlers. The effort might include door-to-door surveys, brochure mailings, public education programs, public forums, physician referrals, as well as, direct contact with child care provider networks.

Melinda Corey, M.Ed., Early Intervention Program Manager, PEDS Child Development Services reached out to FCCAM as part of their effort to reach early childhood educators working directly with children and their families.

FCCAM agrees that it’s important for all providers to have an understanding of how CDS, for that reason we have gathered the information we are sharing through this series of postings on CDS. We are also working on additional training to become available in the future.

As early childhood educators, an important part of our work is supporting children and their families. This means developing an open, honest channel of communication. Even with strong communication, we know discussing the need for evaluation around concerns in regards to a child’s development is a delicate situation. At the same time, we need to understand and accept what an important part of our job this is. In discussions with parents/guardians, it is important to remind them this free evaluation CDS provides can ultimately bring peace of mind – the evaluation team might conclude that the child does not have a disability, or if he or she does, that the needed help is readily available. Remind them of the importance of early intervention. Together we are working to provide the best for their child.

Regardless of how parents/guardians may respond to the discussion, it’s important to also remember we need to act in the best interest of the child. Child Find policies provide direction. For support resources and links go to the Maine DOE Child Development Services page. You will find the Child Find Intake Form there.

Once notified by CDS of an outside referral, parents/guardians have the legal right to refuse evaluation and services.

Our next post in this series on CDS will cover Part C (Birth – 2).