Congress established this program in 1986 in recognition of "an urgent and substantial need" to:
The Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities (Part C of IDEA) is a federal grant program that assists states in operating a comprehensive statewide program of early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities, ages birth through age 2 years, and their families. In order for a state to participate in the program it must assure that early intervention will be available to every eligible child and its family. Also, the governor must designate a lead agency to receive the grant and administer the program, and appoint an Interagency Coordinating Council (ICC), including parents of young children with disabilities, to advise and assist the lead agency. Currently, all states and eligible territories are participating in the Part C program. Annual funding to each state is based upon census figures of the number of children, birth through 2, in the general population.
The statute and regulations for Part C contain many requirements states have to meet, including specifying the minimum components of comprehensive statewide early intervention system. States have some discretion in setting the criteria for child eligibility, including whether or not to serve at risk children. As a result, definitions of eligibility differ significantly from state to state. States also differ concerning which state agency has been designated "lead agency" for the Part C program. In fact, statewide early intervention systems differ in many ways from state to state.