Jun 07 Supporting Infant & Toddler Early Intervention for the Youngest Pennsylvanians
(June 7, 2023) The basic developmental skills that babies and toddlers learn set them up for optimal health and development, educational success, and lifelong well-being. Infants and toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities need more support to stay on that same track to success, which is where targeted programs like early intervention provide critical scaffolding to learning.
This is why, along with our statewide partners, Allies for Children helped develop a policy agenda for Part C infant and toddler early intervention (EI) services. This statewide policy agenda for Part C EI has identified several priorities: addressing mental health needs of infants and toddlers, achieving equitable access, and improving referrals.
What is Infant & Toddler Early Intervention?
Infant and Toddler EI is a program that provides services to children from birth to 3 years who have developmental delays or a high probability of having a developmental delay. Also referred to as Part C EI, these services aim to improve outcomes that are critical to a family’s ability to support their child’s health, optimal development, educational success, and lifelong well-being. Part C EI seeks to enhance child development, minimize the need for special education, maximize opportunities to live at home, and help families meet their child’s needs.
The preschool early intervention program (Part B EI) serves children ages three through five who have developmental needs and/or disabilities. Allies for Children and our statewide partners at Thriving PA hope to advocate for preschool early intervention in future years, but will not be addressing that program at this point.
Infant and Toddler EI services are delivered through an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) developed in collaboration between an EI team of professionals and the family. Families are trained and encouraged to carry out recommended activities at home.
Services are structured to identify and meet the needs of young children in five developmental areas: physical development, cognitive development, communication & language, social & emotional development, and self-help skills. Specific skills that a child could practice with their family at home include:
- Rolling, crawling, walking
- Talking, listening
Services are primarily state funded with some federal Part C funds and matching dollars to the county. The federal EI Program for Infants and Toddlers was authorized in 1986 under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and states administer the program. In Pennsylvania, it is jointly overseen by the Department of Education (Part B) and the Department of Human Services (Part C), with direct administration by the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL).
Under federal EI rules, each state defines eligibility. In Pennsylvania, an infant or toddler with a disability is defined as a child experiencing a 25% developmental delay in one or more of the five areas of development, or has a diagnosed condition with a high probability of resulting in developmental delay. There are no income eligibility guidelines or cost to the family regardless of income.
Part C EI’s primary referral sources include birth hospitals, pediatric primary care providers, early care and education providers, and other health or social service providers. In addition, families may self-refer to determine eligibility. Successfully serving infants and toddlers in EI requires partnership and collaboration across programs, services, and systems.
The State of Early Intervention
EI and other Early Childhood Special Education Services are critical to improve learning and development for children with special needs. The State(s) of Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education: Looking at Equity finds that not all young children are equally likely to have access to EI services in the United States overall or in Pennsylvania specifically. According to the report, Pennsylvania served 4.9% of children under 3 in EI. In addition, they found that Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian children are less likely to receive EI services than white children in PA: 5.0% of Black children under age 3 received EI compared to 4.7% of Hispanic children, 4.6% of white children, and 3.4% of Asian children. These findings raise concerns that access to EI is inequitable. The full report is available here.
How can Pennsylvania’s Policymakers support Infant and Toddler EI?
The Pennsylvania House recently passed a General Appropriations Act for the 2023-24 fiscal year which included a proposed $15.4 M increase for Part C EI. This budget now goes to the Senate for consideration.
As part of the final 2023-24 state budget package, Allies for Children and our partners at Thriving PA are asking that policymakers support governor Shapiro’s original proposed increase of $20.2 million for Part C EI. This will serve an additional 3,000 children and their families. The investment will also sustain a rate increase for providers initially achieved with federal stimulus funding. Thriving PA is hopeful this budget and OCDEL’s proposed rate methodology study are the first steps on a longer path to creating a viable and sustained EI service delivery platform.
Additional work is needed to support the preschool age component of Early Intervention Part B. Allies for Children and our partners continue to monitor statewide and local opportunities to help improve these essential services for children and families.
Want to learn more about Infant Toddler EI?
To learn more about referrals to EI or to apply visit:
To learn more about the Thriving PA Campaign on Early Intervention visit:
Cristina Codario, Allies for Children Health Policy Director