Child Find: The IDEA Mandate
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that all children have access to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and provides federal funding to states to achieve this goal. In order to receive this federal funding, states must meet conditions within the IDEA such as “Child Find.”
Section 1412(a)(3), commonly known as “Child Find”, requires that “all children with disabilities residing in the State…who are in need of special education services are identified, located, and evaluated…” This obligation extends to children with disabilities who are homeless, wards of the state, and/or attending private schools from birth to their 22nd birthday.
The LEA/School District’s Responsibility Under Child Find
California, in compliance with the IDEA, mandates that local educational agencies (LEAs) “shall actively and systematically seek out all individuals with exceptional needs” and that “all children with disabilities…shall be identified, located, and assessed.” Cal.Educ.Code Section 56301(a) and Section 56501(a). Generally, the LEA is synonymous with the school district. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the school district to identify, locate and evaluate a child with a suspected disability even if the child is in a private school placement.
Early Intervention Services: California’s “Part C” Coordinator
Part C of the IDEA entitled “Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities” begins with the Congressional findings that “there is an urgent and substantial need to…enhance the development of infants and toddlers with disabilities…” and to “…identify, evaluate, and meet the needs of all children, particularly minority, low-income, inner city, and rural children, and infants and toddlers in foster care.”
In California, the Department of DevelopmentalServices is responsible for implementing Part C of the IDEA. Part C governs early intervention services for infants and toddlers under age 3. This responsibility includes developing a “comprehensive child find system.”