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Early Childhood (Birth to 5 years)

Early Start

The Early Start program is California’s early intervention program for infants and toddlers for children under age 3 with disabilities and their families, as well as some infants that have a high risk of having a developmental disability. Early Start services are available statewide and are provided in a coordinated, family-centered system.

Parents know their children better than anyone. The first three years are very important in a child’s life. If a parent, family member, caregiver, or professional has a concern about a child’s development, it is best to identify the concern as soon as possible. Families whose infants or toddlers have developmental delay or disabilities, or are at risk for developmental delay or disabilities, may qualify for early intervention services via the Early Start program.

The single point of entry to early intervention services is the regional center in your local area. All infants and toddlers potentially eligible for a regional center program will be evaluated by the regional center to determine eligibility for Early Start. Support and assistance from other parents is available to help parents navigate the Early Start system. Early Start Family Resource Centers (FRCs) provide a variety of family support services. To find the local regional center and FRC that serves your area, please click here.

Learn more about Early Start from DDS

Download California Government Code for Early Start Eligibility

Take A Minute Campaign – “Take a Minute” provides information to families and providers about the importance of social and emotional development.

California Early Start NeighborhoodThis is a virtual community for Early Start professionals and partners seeking training, technical assistance, and resources on early intervention Part C requirements, implementation, and evidence-based practices.


Provisional Eligibility (Download the Guidance)

As of July 2021 DDS released a new policy for “Provisional Eligibility” that makes it easier to be a regional center consumer, at least for a couple more years.  The new policy expands eligibility for our services by allowing a child who is three or four years old to be eligible for regional center services if they have significant functional limits in at least two, instead of three, qualifying areas.  The child’s disability cannot be just physical but also does not need to be a developmental disability at the time.  A child exiting Early Start may be eligible for the provisional criteria but the child who is three or four years of age who did not receive Early Start services, may also be eligible. 

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