Improving Systems, Practices and Outcomes

Early Identification:
Referral Requirements under CAPTA and IDEA

Topic Editor: Evelyn Shaw

Most recent additions to this page:

WWW: Child Maltreatment 2015 (January 2017) Children's Bureau - Presents national data about child abuse and neglect known to child protective services agencies in the U.S. during federal fiscal year (FFY) 2015. The report finds that for FFY 2015, there were an estimated 683,000 victims of abuse and neglect nationally, 3.8% higher than the FFY 2011 estimate. The youngest children continued to be the most vulnerable; more than than one-quarter (27.7%) of victims were younger than 3 years and the rate was highest for children younger than 1 year. The victimization rate was slightly higher for girls (50.9) than for boys (48.6). African-American children had the highest rates of victimization at 14.5 per 1,000 children in the population of the same race or ethnicity. See a collection of current and past Child Maltreatment Reports here.

WWW: Resource Guide to Trauma-Informed Human Services (January 2017) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - This guide provides an introduction to the topic of trauma, a discussion of why understanding and addressing trauma is important for human services programs, and a "road map" to relevant resources. It is meant to help professionals learn about trauma-informed care and improve their practices. Some of the resources in the guide are specific to Early Childhood Programs.

Related pages:


WWW: The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act Reauthorization Act of 2010 (CAPTA) was signed into law on December 20, 2010, as Public Law 111-320. An WWW: Information Memorandum on CAPTA from the Children's Bureau summarizes some of the 2010 changes to the law. See also, WWW: Congress Reauthorizes CAPTA. Since 2003, CAPTA has required states that receive CAPTA funds to develop provisions and procedures for the referral of a child under the age of 3 who is involved in a substantiated case of abuse or neglect to Early Intervention Services funded under Part C of IDEA.

WWW: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004, Part C, Section 637(a)(6)(A&B) (State Application and Assurances) has complementary language, requiring states participating in Part C to refer for early intervention services any child under the age of 3 who is involved in a substantiated case of child abuse or neglect; or is identified as affected by illegal substance abuse, or withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure.

Resources from OSEP-Funded Projects

ECO, DaSy, ECTA Center

More than Referral: Linkages between Early Intervention and Child Welfare Data and Improved Child Outcome (September 16, 2013) - Presentation at the 2013 Improving Data, Improving Outcomces National Meeting - Ten years ago states were federally mandated to develop referral policies for maltreated children. Although the mandate focuses on referral, the intent was to improve outcomes. This interactive session discussed implementation issues and implications for state IDEA data systems.

Resources from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Initiatives Funded by HHS

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

WWW: Supporting the Development of Young Children in American Indian and Alaska Native Communities Who are Affected by Alcohol and Substance Exposure (December 2016), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - This policy statement provides recommendations that promote the early development of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children, prenatal to age eight, who have been exposed to alcohol or other substances during pregnancy, or who are affected by parent or caregiver substance misuse during early childhood. Although it responds to the issue in AI/AN communities, it is also relevant to many other communities across America.

WWW: Resource Guide to Trauma-Informed Human Services (January 2017) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - This guide provides an introduction to the topic of trauma, a discussion of why understanding and addressing trauma is important for human services programs, and a "road map" to relevant resources. It is meant to help professionals learn about trauma-informed care and improve their practices. Some of the resources in the guide are specific to Early Childhood Programs.

Children's Bureau

WWW: Child Maltreatment 2015 (January 2017), Children's Bureau - This annual report provides data collected from the States' child protective services (CPS) agencies via the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. See also, WWW: Past Child Maltreatment reports

WWW: The Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children's Bureau, provides access to information and resources on a wide range of topics to help protect children and strengthen families. Some of these include:

WWW: Information Memorandum on Modifications to the CAPTA State Grant Program by the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003 (Public Law 108-36) (2003) and WWW: Child Welfare Policy Manual, Section 2.1I on CAPTA, Assurances and Requirements, Referrals to IDEA, Part C, for questions and answers related to this policy.

In 2005, the Children's Bureau awarded four 5-year grants to develop model policies and procedures on the provisions of CAPTA related to substance-exposed infants. To learn more, see: WWW: Implementing CAPTA Requirements to Help Substance-Exposed Newborns (2008)

See also, WWW: Other National Resource Centers funded by the Children's Bureau with resources relevant to this topic.

National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW)

WWW: NSCAW is a nationally representative, longitudinal survey of children and families who have been the subjects of investigation by Child Protective Services.

WWW: NSCAW II Wave 2 Report: Child Well-Being (July 2012) shows that 18 months after the close of investigation, children reported for maltreatment were found to be below their peers in social-emotional, cognitive, language, daily living skills, behavioral, and social skill-based domains. 34.5% of children 1 to 5 years old showed risk of developmental delay on standardized measures; 6.5% had both an established medical condition and developmental delay; overall, 42.3% were found to be potentially eligible for services under the IDEA.

National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health

WWW: The National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health (NTAC) addresses the mental health needs of children, youth and their families at the policy, research, training/consultation and direct service levels. Some of their publications include:

Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE)

Benefits of Early Care and Education for Children in the Child Welfare System (November 2016), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE - Explores emerging evidence on the value of early care and education services to the Child Welfare System's goals of: (1) child safety, (2) permanency, and (3) wellbeing. It finds that the vast majority of young child welfare system-supervised-children are not utilizing early care and education (ECE) services despite the apparent benefits, and discusses organizational practices that can be used to increase their enrollment ECE programs.

Services for Families of Infants and Toddlers Experiencing Trauma (2015), ICF International - Discusses intervention strategies that could potentially protect infants and toddlers from the adverse consequences of traumatic experiences, such as supporting parents to provide stable and nurturing caregiving that promotes children's sense of safety and security. Includes a summary of evidence-based interventions for infants and toddlers exposed to trauma and looks at how child care, Early Head Start, home visitation, and child welfare can become trauma-informed infant/toddler service delivery systems.

WWW: Children at Risk in the Child Welfare System: Collaborations to Promote School Readiness Final Report (2009), Cutler Institute and Oldham Innovative Research - Summarizes findings from a 3 year study funded by the Office of Policy, Research and Evaluation of the Administration on Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to examine the degree to which child welfare agencies, early intervention/preschool special education programs under IDEA, and early care and education programs are collaborating to meet the developmental and educational needs of children ages 0 to 5 who are in the child welfare system.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA)

WWW: The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW) is jointly funded by SAMHSA and the Children's Bureau. Some resources of interest include:

Resources from National Centers

Anne E. Casey Foundation

WWW Making the Case for Early Childhood Intervention in Child Welfare (October 2013) - Recent data suggest that infants and toddlers make up one-fourth to one-third of the children who are abused or neglected annually and are the largest group entering out-of-home care. They are also more likely to experience recurrent maltreatment and remain in out-of-home care longer than older children. Children under six constitute 47% of foster care entries. This brief describes a national scan of interventions targeting families with young children and makes recommendations to safely reduce the number of young children in foster care. It suggests that because early childhood is a foundational period of development, addressing the unique needs of this population is a tremendous opportunity to improve child welfare systems and the health and well-being of young children.

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

See also, the AAP's Web page on WWW: Child Abuse and Neglect.

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University

The WWW: Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University has published numerous resources on how adversity in early childhood can impact early childhood development. For example, see their WWW: reports and working papers, which examine the critical impact of a child's environment and relationships during the first months and years of life on the developing brain. See also their InBrief Series and a related collection of Videos.

Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago

PDF: Who Are the Infants in Out-of-Home Care? An Epidemiological and Developmental Snapshot (May 2011) by Fred Wulczyn, Michelle Ernst, and Philip Fisher - This report discusses the characteristics of infants in foster care, focusing on key findings across five domains, including: incidence of first-time placements, duration in care, experiences in care, characteristics, and vulnerability for delayed development. Although infants in foster care face a number of challenges, the researchers found that early intervention programs, appropriate therapeutic responses, and caregiver training and support can reduce the harmful effects of stress that these children experience and improve the odds for better cognitive outcomes.

Child Welfare 360° (CW360°)

WWW: Child Welfare 360° (CW360°) is a biannual publication of the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW) at the University of Minnesota. Each issue focuses on the latest research, policies and practices in a key area affecting child well-being. See, for example:

Institute for Social and Economic Development (ISED)

WWW: Developmental Status and Early Intervention Service Needs of Maltreated Children: Final Report (April 2008) - This report provides information on the developmental status and early intervention service needs of children under age three who are substantiated for maltreatment. It is based on an analysis of the WWW: National Early Intervention Longitudinal Study (NEILS) and the WWW: National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW).

National Academy of Sciences (NAS)

WWW: New Directions in Child Abuse and Neglect Research (2013), Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council (NRC). This report updates a 1993 report, "Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect," which provided an overview of the research on child abuse and neglect. The new report reviews research from the past 20 years, including chapters on Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect, as well as Interventions and Service Delivery Systems. The authors recommend the establishment of a coordinated, multidisciplinary national research infrastructure with high-level federal support.

National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA)

WWW: The National Indian Child Welfare Association provides public policy, research, and advocacy information and training on Indian child welfare and community development services to a broad national audience. It is the only national Indian organization focused on child abuse and neglect issues that impact Indian children and families. NICWA also works to support compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 and other WWW: key legislation to support American Indian children and families.

Urban Institute

WWW: Vulnerable Infants and Toddlers in Four Service Systems (2007) - This report examines the characteristics of vulnerable young children in four service systems: Early Head Start; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; the Child Welfare System; and the IDEA Part C Early Intervention Program. Data suggest that the children and families in these systems have notable similarities. The authors suggest that policy initiatives to support young ’chilren's development might benefit from integrating common lessons from the different systems' research findings.

ZERO TO THREE: the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families

Changing the Course for Infants and Toddlers: A Survey of State Child Welfare Policies and Initiatives (September 25, 2013) - This report from ZERO TO THREE and Child Trends discusses findings from 2013 survey of state child welfare agencies about how they address the needs of infants and toddlers who have been maltreated. It finds that few states differentiate services or timelines for infants and toddlers from those for older children and relatively few have implemented promising approaches to meeting the unique developmental needs of infants and toddlers.

WWW: Safe Babies Court Teams: Building Strong Families and Healthy Communities - This ZERO TO THREE initiative focuses on improving how the courts, child welfare agencies, and related child-serving organizations work together, share information, and expedite services for young children.

PDF: Healthy Beginnings, Healthy Futures: A Judg’e's Guide (October 2009) - Provides information on child development, attachment, physical health, infant mental health, and early care and education. Produced by the American Bar Association's Center on Children and the Law, in collaboration with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the ZERO TO THREE National Policy Center.

WWW: Developmental Problems of Maltreated Children and Early Intervention Options for Maltreated Children (2007) - Developed by ZERO TO THREE in collaboration with the Institute for Social and Economic Development (ISED), this literature review examines common developmental problems that occur as a result of maltreatment in infants and toddlers under the age of 3 and the positive impact of early intervention for these vulnerable young children.

WWW: From Science to Public Policy: Early Intervention for Abused and Neglected Infants and Toddlers (2006)

See also, WWW: ZERO TO THREE's page on Trauma and Stress

Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center

  • CB 8040
  • Chapel Hill, NC 27599-8040
  • phone: 919.962.2001
  • fax: 919.966.7463
  • email:

The ECTA Center is a program of the FPG Child Development Institute of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, funded through cooperative agreement number H326P120002 from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the Department of Education's position or policy.

  • FPG Child Development Institute
  • IDEAs that Work