Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities

Current Section  Purpose
 Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Home

Program Office: Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)

CFDA Number: 84.181
Program Type: Formula Grants
Also Known As: Grants for Infants and Families, Part C of IDEA, Grants for Infants and Toddlers


The Grants for Infants and Families program (Part C) awards formula grants to the 50 States, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Secretary of the Interior, and Outlying Areas to assist them in implementing statewide systems of coordinated, comprehensive, multidisciplinary, interagency programs and making early intervention services available to children with disabilities, aged birth through 2, and their families. Under the program, states are responsible for ensuring that appropriate early intervention services are made available to all eligible birth-through-2-year-olds with disabilities and their families, including Indian children and families who reside on reservations geographically located in the state. Infants and toddlers with disabilities are defined as children who:

  1. are experiencing developmental delays, as measured by appropriate diagnostic instruments and procedures, in one or more of the following five areas: cognitive development, physical development, communication development, social or emotional development, or adaptive development; or
  2. have a diagnosed physical or mental condition that has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay.

Within statutory limits, "developmental delay" has the meaning given the term by each state. In addition, states have the discretion to provide services to infants and toddlers who are at risk of having substantial developmental delays if they do not receive appropriate early intervention services.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) gives states the discretion to extend eligibility for Part C services to children with disabilities who are eligible for services under section 619 and who previously received services under Part C, until such children enter or are eligible under state law to enter kindergarten or elementary school, as appropriate. The IDEA further stipulates that any Part C programs serving children aged 3 or older must provide an educational component that promotes school readiness and incorporates preliteracy, language, and numeracy skills and provide a written notification to parents of their rights regarding the continuation of services under Part C and eligibility for services under section 619. In fiscal year 2009, two states (New Mexico and Maryland) elected to make Part C services available to children with disabilities beyond their third birthday and continued to do so in 2010, 2011, and 2012. No additional states elected to implement this option in fiscal years 2010 through 2012.

In any fiscal year in which the appropriation for Part C exceeds $460 million, the statute also includes authority for the Secretary to reserve 15 percent of the amount above $460 million for a State Incentive Grants program. The purpose of this program is to provide funding to assist states that have elected to extend eligibility for Part C services to children with disabilities aged 3 years until entrance into kindergarten or elementary school, or for a portion of this period. No state can receive more than 20 percent of the amount available for State Incentive Grants in a fiscal year. In fiscal year 2009, due to the addition of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the total of funds appropriated for Part C exceeded the $460 million level. The states that opted to extend their provision of Part C services beyond age 3 received additional funds through this program, and had until September 30, 2011, to expend these funds. The appropriation for fiscal years 2010 through 2014 did not exceed $460 million, so the Department did not have authority to award State Incentive Grants in any of these fiscal years.

The statewide system also must comply with 17 statutory requirements, including having a lead agency designated with the responsibility for the coordination and administration of funds and a State Interagency Coordinating Council to advise and assist the lead agency. One of the purposes of the Part C program is to assist states to coordinate payment for early intervention services from federal, state, local, and private sources, including public and private insurance coverage. These include Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income, and Early Head Start.


Funds allocated under this program can be used to:

  1. maintain and implement the statewide system described above;
  2. fund direct early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families that are not otherwise provided by other public or private sources;
  3. expand and improve services that are otherwise available;
  4. provide a free appropriate public education, in accordance with Part B of the IDEA, to children with disabilities from their third birthday to the beginning of the following school year;
  5. continue to provide early intervention services to children with disabilities from their third birthday until such children enter or are eligible to enter kindergarten or elementary school; and
  6. initiate, expand, or improve collaborative efforts related to identifying, evaluating, referring, and following up on at-risk infants and toddlers in States that do not provide direct services for these children.

The IDEA requires that early intervention services be provided, to the maximum extent appropriate, in natural environments. These services can be provided in another setting only when early intervention cannot be achieved satisfactorily for the infant or toddler in a natural environment. The natural environment includes the home and community settings where children would be participating if they did not have a disability. Each child’s individualized family service plan (IFSP) must contain a statement of the natural environments in which early intervention services will be provided, including a justification of the extent, if any, to which the services will not be provided in a natural environment.

Allocations are based on the number of children in the general population aged birth through 2 years in each state. The Department of Education uses data provided by the United States Census Bureau in making this calculation. No state can receive less than 0.5 percent of the funds available to all states, or $500,000, whichever is greater. The Outlying Areas may receive not more than 1 percent of the funds appropriated. The Secretary of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Education, receives 1.25 percent of the aggregate of the amount available to all states. Interior must pass through all the funds it receives to Indian tribes, tribal organizations, or consortia for the coordination of early intervention services on reservations with Interior schools. Tribes and tribal organizations can use the funds they receive to provide:

  1. help to States in identifying Indian infants and toddlers with disabilities,
  2. parent training, and
  3. early intervention services.

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Last Modified: 07/29/2014