Nearly every state in the country is failing to enroll enough children under age three in programs for children with disabilities, even though the services could shape how they do in school or even keep them out of special education programs all together, a new report from Easter Seals finds.
Nationwide, fewer than 3 percent of children are enrolled in the Part C portion of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for infants and toddlers, even though the federal government estimates that as many as 13 percent of all should be served. Easter Seals' report identifies the number of children who may have mild to moderate disabilities, developmental delays, or who are at risk for developmental delays who could benefit from such services—beyond those children who are now eligible for services.
Federal law says that states are responsible for identifying and serving children who may need services.
Some states fare particularly poorly, Easter Seals found. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, the District of Columbia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, and Tennessee serve fewer than 2 percent of their population. On the other hand, some states do much better: Massachusetts, New Mexico, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Wyoming serve more than 4 percent of their population through Part C.
Easter Seals is calling on Congress to protect and boost funding for Part C by $100 million, for a total of $539 million, in the years to come, a tall order in an era of cost-cutting measures galore.
Look up how your state is doing here.