This video explains in depth what is involved in the Child Find process. Perceiving that there was a system for providing special education services to children who needed them, but no such system for finding the children themselves, congress invented the Child Find process as a method to have school districts find and identify children who may have disabilities. The Child Find process primarily focuses on finding children with disabilities as early as possible (ideally from birth to five years of age, though child find applies to children until graduation or age 21). Child Find is conducted through screenings that evaluate visual, hearing, developmental, or other kinds of issues that could inhibit a child’s learning.
Once the state government required screenings, school districts became more inventive in how they conducted the screenings (going to preschools, organizing special screening events, forming partnerships with outside organizations for screenings).
Aside from screenings, the Child Find process is implemented in a number of ways. Yearly notices, pamphlets, or other printed materials (such as a developmental wheel that clarifies what cognitive and physical skills a child should have by a given age) are part of the Child Find process. Other implementations include internet reading materials and notices to private schools. Parents, teachers and providers can also alert the school district to possible problems to initiate possible Child Find screenings.
It’s important to note that even if a child is progressing through grades as a regular child would, that doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t be offered special education services. Doctors, teachers, parents, or relatives can all start the Child Find process if they begin to suspect there might be a problem. Once someone identifies that the child may have a problem accessing his/her education, they can start an evaluation or intervention so the child can begin receiving services.
If a school isn’t participating in the Child Find process, that is legally a denial of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). FAPE is a requirement for schools who receive federal funding, and if they are not participating, then it can lead to the parent receiving compensatory education or tuition.
For reference, here are a couple of relevant excerpts from the Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act [Note: the symbol “§” stands for “section”].
34 CFR § 300.111. Child Find –(a)General.(1) The State must have in effect policies and procedures to ensure that –
(i) All children with disabilities residing in the state, including children with disabilities who are homeless children or are wards of the State, and children with disabilities attending private schools, renegades of the severity of their disability, and who are in need of special education and related services, are identified, located, and evaluated, and
(ii) A practical method is developed and implemented to determine when children are correctly receiving needed special education and related services.
Part (ii) simply outlines the reporting requirements for schools, so that schools are accountable for the children they find and so the state is aware of the school’s activities regarding the Child Find process.
The next section outlines how the definition of “developmental delay” is different from state to state, as well as how the federal rules and regulations for the Child Find process allows the states to exercise some degree of freedom. [Note: LEA stands for “Local Education Authority”].
(b)Use of term developmental delay. The following provisions apply with respect to implementing the child find requirements of this section
(1) A State that adopts a definition of developmental delay under § 300.8(b) determines whether the term applies to children aged three through nine, or to a subset of that age range (e.g., ages three through five).
(2) A State may not require an LEA to adopt and use the term developmental delay for any children within its jurisdiction.
(3) If an LEA uses the term developmental delay for children described in § 300.8 (b), the LEA must conform to both the State’s definition of that term and to the age range that has been adopted by the state.
(4) If a State does not adopt the term developmental delay, an LEA may not independently use the term as a basis for establishing a child’s eligibility under this part.
Here “developmental delay” is a term stating that your child is not developing certain cognitive and mechanical skills as quickly as they should be. Nebraska does have a state definition of developmental delay, which we will discuss in the section covering eligibility requirements. For the purposes of this section, the delay must be in the areas of cognitive, physical, communicative, socioemotional, or adaptive behavior development, and the difference between a given child and the average must be at least two standard deviations in terms of age versus development of skills (for example, if the child has only developed age five skills at age eight). Nebraska also allows for the opinion of a qualified professional, in consultation with the family, to possibly qualify a child as having a developmental delay.
Here are couple of other relevant excerpts.
(d) Construction. Nothing in the Act requires that children be classified by their disability so long as each child who has a disability that is listed in § 300.8 and who, by reason of that disability, needs special education and related services is regarded as a child with a disability under Part B or the Act.
34 CFR § 104.32
A recipient that operates a public elementary or secondary education program or activity shall annually:
(a) Undertake to identify and locate every qualified handicapped person residing in the recipient’s jurisdiction who is not receiving a public education; and
(b) Take appropriate steps to notify handicapped persons and their parents or guardians of the recipient’s duty under this subpart.
That sums up the legal ins-and-outs of the Child Find process. In the next section, we will discuss the formal evaluation process, after a screening identifies your child as possibly having a disability under Child Find.