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IDEA Part C is a program that covers early intervention services for children with disabilities from birth through age 2. A child does not have to be enrolled in school to participate in IDEA Part C.

Who provides the service?

In California, Regional Centers are responsible for providing IDEA Part C services to children with developmental disabilities. School districts are responsible for providing services to children whose disabilities are solely due to vision, hearing, or orthopedic impairments. 

Regional centers are funders of last resort. This means that even if a child is eligible for IDEA Part C, the regional center may require the family to obtain certain services through their private insurance plan or Medi-Cal. Even if a child can get services through insurance or Medicaid, however, the regional center will still pay for the initial assessment and will provide services while the family is waiting for insurance or Medi-Cal to approve the service. 

Who is eligible?

Children under age three are eligible for IDEA Part C services if they have a developmental delay affecting communication development. They may also be eligible if they have a developmental disability affecting cognitive development, physical and motor development, including vision and hearing; social or emotional development; or adaptive development. 

Because it may be difficult to diagnose children at a young age, the delay does not need to be caused by a known disability. Instead, a qualified professional only needs to find that there is a "significant difference" between the child's current level of functioning and the level of development expected for children of the same age. Delays are significant if:

  • The child is under age 2 and there is a 33% difference between the child's abilities in one or more domain, and the abilities expected for children their age;
  • The child is over age 2 and there is a 50% difference between the child's abilities in one domain and that expected for children the same age; or
  • The child is over age 2 and there is a 33% difference between the child's abilities in two or more domains and that expected for children the same age.

Children who are diagnosed as being "at risk" for developmental delays may also be eligible, as long as their underlying condition has a high probability of leading to a developmental disability in the future. However, funding for children in this category is limited and it is possible that not every child in this group will receive services.

What is covered

IDEA Part C services can include:

  • Assessments and screenings
  • Speech-language therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Service coordination
  • Assistive technology, including AAC and training on how to use AAC 
  • Family counseling and training 

Services under IDEA Part C must be provided in the child's "natural environment," such as the home. Sometimes the services will be provided in a group setting so that children can learn to interact with peers. 

How to access services

To access services through IDEA Part C, the regional center must receive a referral for services by the parent, doctor, or some other service provider (such as a day care program, child welfare program, or other health or social services provider). The referral can be made either over the telephone to the local regional center or through a letter. The referral must:

  1. Describe the child's needs; and
  2. Ask for early intervention services.


Once it has received a referral and the parents have consented to services, the regional center must do all of the following things within 45 days:

  1. Provide a timely and comprehensive evaluation - including a communication assessment if needed. 
  2. Make an eligibility determination. The determination should take into account not only the assessment but also other health records and input from people who know the child well.
  3. If the child is eligible, the regional center must complete an assessment for service planning that takes into account the child's needs and strengths, as well as the family's overall situation, priorities, and resources. It must identify early intervention services to address the child's needs.
  4. If the child is eligible, the regional center must also develop an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). This plan must be developed by an interdisciplinary team that includes the parents.


The IFSP for a child with communication delays must include:

  • A description of the child's current communication abilities
  • A description of the child's communication goals, and a statement of the services that the child will receive to achieve these goals.
  • Concrete dates on which the services will begin (children with IFSPs cannot be placed on waiting lists)
  • A description of who will be providing the services
  • A person who will be coordinating the services
  • A transition plan to ensure the child continues to receive appropriate services from other providers (such as the school district) after reaching age 3. 

Enforcing Rights to IDEA Part C Services

Due Process Hearings

If a family disagrees with the regional center's IFSP proposal, it may request a "due process" hearing. At the hearing, the family can explain why it believes that the child needs services other than those offered by the regional center. If the regional center is proposing to stop providing a service that it has provided to the child in the past, the child's family can invoke their right to "stay put," or continue receiving services, while the hearing is pending.

Hearing requests should be sent to:

Office of Administrative Hearings
2349 Gateway Oaks Drive, Ste. 200
Sacramento, CA 95833
Facsimile: 916-376-6318
Attn: Early Star

The hearing request must include:

  • The complainant's name
  • The name of the child
  • The complainant's address and telephone number
  • A description of the child's disability 
  • A description of the services the family is requesting and an explanation of why the services are necessary
  • A description of any steps the family has already taken to resolve the issue.  

You can contact the Office of Administrative Hearings at (916) 263-0654. 


If the family believes that the Regional Center has failed to provide the services in the IFSP or has failed to follow the required procedures, they may file a complaint. The complaint should be addressed to: 

California Department of Developmental Services
Office of Human Rights and Advocacy Services
Attn: Early Start Complaint Unit
1600 Ninth Street, Room 240, M.S.- 215
Sacramento, CA 95814

The complaint must include:

  • The complainant's name
  • The name of the child
  • The complainant's address and telephone number
  • A description of the facts underlying the complaint
  • A description of any steps the complainant has already taken to resolve the issue. 

If the family already has a service coordinator, the service coordinator must help with writing and filing the complaint.

Other resources

To learn more about IDEA Part C Services, please see: