Improving Systems, Practices and Outcomes

Public Awareness and Primary Referral Sources

Topic Editor: Evelyn Shaw

Under Part C (34CFR§§ 303.301), the public awareness program is part of the comprehensive child find system. Public awareness is an ongoing effort that keeps the families, primary referral sources and the general public informed about the early intervention program. Information disseminated includes the scope and purpose of the early intervention system, how to make a referral, how to gain access to a comprehensive, multidisciplinary evaluation and assessment and early intervention services, and the central directory. All primary referral sources (especially hospitals and physicians) have this information in order to provide parents of infants and toddlers, especially parents with premature infants or infants with other physical risk factors associated with learning or developmental complications, with the knowledge of the availability of early intervention services. Additionally, public awareness includes dissemination of specific information for parents of toddlers with disabilities to inform them of the availability of services under Section 619, preschool services, not fewer than 90 days prior to a toddler's third birthday.

Under Part B (34CFR§§ 300.125) Child Find, states are required to identify, locate and evaluate all children with disabilities in the state, birth to 21, including highly mobile children with disabilities (migrant or homeless children). When the Part C lead agency is different from the Part B lead agency, states must describe the "nature and participation" of the Part C lead agency in child find activities for children birth through age two.

To be effective, the public awareness program should provide continuous, ongoing activities throughout the state, involve the major organizations that have a direct interest in young children including public and private agencies at the state, regional and local levels, parent groups, advocates, and other organizations. Public awareness should be broad enough to reach the general public including persons with disabilities and include a variety of methods. Examples of methods to inform the general public can include posters, pamphlets, displays, toll free-numbers, Web sites, videos, TV, radio, newspaper releases, advertisements etc.

TRACE: Tracking, Referral and Assessment Center for Excellence was funded by the Office of Special Education Programs to identify and promote the use of evidence-based practices and models for improving child find, referral, early identification, and eligibility determination for infants, toddlers, and young children with developmental delays or disabilities. Examples of publications include topics such as improving referrals from physicians, providing feedback to primary referral sources, academic detailing, a universal referral form, and an eligibility determination algorithm for Part C.

Reaching Families and Caregivers

See also: state examples below.

Strategies for Reaching Physicians and the Medical Community

  • The Screening Technical Assistance & Resource Center (Star Center) provides information and resources as part of the Screening in Practices Initiative from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) with support from the JPB Foundation . The Star Center provides information and resources for pediatric health care providers to support the implementation of a system of screening, referral and follow-up that includes monitoring of developmental milestones, along with maternal depression and other social factors known to influence healthy development. Screening tools and training materials are available along with links to other AAP related screening initiatives (e.g. vision, hearing and other early childhood screenings.
  • Bright Futures Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents (2017, 4th ed.), published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) with funding from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), provides comprehensive information for pediatricians and other health care providers on developmental surveillance and milestones, physical exams, screening procedures, and immunization recommendations. To view videos in which experts share their perspectives about the Bright Futures Guidelines, pay a visit to the Bright Futures Multimedia Gallery.

See also: state examples below.

State Examples

  • Connecticut Birth to Three - Especially for Families has materials on typical development, services and supports.
  • Maryland Department of Education - Family Support Services has information about Early Intervention and Preschool Services
  • Minnesota - Help Me Grow has resources to help families understand developmental milestones and learn if there are concerns.
  • Wisconsin Early Childhood Collaborating Partners maintains a child find website with information about child find, birth through five and links to resources on eligibility and Act Early WI's Learn the Signs (English and Spanish).
  • IDEAs that Work: Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education

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 H326P170001 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.

Project Officer: Julia Martin Eile     © 2012-2019 ECTA Center

  • UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute