The information presented below is a brief overview of this state's early intervention service system. Please contact the lead state agency or follow the various links for more detailed information.

Lead agency for early intervention services

California's Early Start program is administered by the State of California Department of Developmental Services, Children and Family Services Branch.

Eligibility criteria for early intervention services

Children under the age of 3 may be eligible if they have:

  • Developmental delay of 33 percent in one or more developmental areas and are under 24 months of age at the time of referral
  • Developmental delay of 50 percent in one area of development and are 24 months of age or older at the time of referral
  • Developmental delay of 33 percent delay in two or more areas of development
  • Established risk condition with a high probability of resulting in delayed development

See eligibility criteria for more information.

Number of children served

California reported 33,737 infants and toddlers for the 2012 child count.

Support service structure

The State of California Department of Developmental Services monitors and supports the services provided by a network of regional centers. Additional support is provided through 47 family resource centers that are staffed by parents of children with special needs and provide information and parent-to-parent support.

Initial family contact

Families may call 800-515-2229 or contact the regional center serving their area.

Services for at-risk children

Local service teams will provide information on available resources to families with children who are not eligible for early intervention services. Families may also contact the parent training and information centers listed below.

Family cost participation

Families meeting certain income guidelines may be asked to pay a fee for some services. Public and private insurance may be accessed under certain conditions. See family cost participation for more information.

Insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorder services

California enacted legislation related to insurance coverage specifically for autism spectrum disorder-related services. See California insurance for more information.

Parent training and information center

California has three types of family support groups:

  • Parent training and information centers
  • Community parent resource centers that provide support for parents from under-represented populations
  • Family empowerment centers which include the parent training and information centers

Organizational information and contacts are provided at parent organizations.

Early childhood school services information

Information regarding school services for children ages 3 through 5 is available from the local school district, family resource centers and the parent training and information centers listed above. Additional information is available at the Special Education website or:

California Department of Education
Phone: 916-327-3702

State early intervention resources

A comprehensive listing of early intervention resources is available at early intervention resources.

One child pushing another on a swing