CocoKids offers free services to help parents and providers caring for children with special needs in child care. Learn more.

For a description of the Inclusion Program and how facilitators work with parents and child care providers, go to Inclusion Program.

California has two systems of early intervention for young children with, or at risk for, special needs: one for ages birth through two, and one for over three.

Between Birth and Three Years

The Regional Center of the East Bay is responsible for providing services to infants and young children in both Contra Costa and Alameda counties. If a developmental delay is suspected, parents should talk to their pediatrician, or call the Regional Center, (510) 383-1200, to request an evaluation.

If a child between the ages of birth and three years has vision or hearing impairment or is severely orthopedically impaired, refer the child to the family’s local school district for services. Some school districts provide services for infants and other special needs as well. Call your local school district, Special Education Local Planning Area (SELPA) or the County Office of Education for information about the services available in the family’s community. If there is a delay in responding, parents should call the CARE Parent Network, (800) 281-3023, for help.

Over Three Years Old

If you suspect a child over the age of three has special needs, refer the family to the Director of Special Education at their local school district for testing. Tell the family to always send a request in writing, in addition to a phone call. In the letter, they should indicate why they have concerns and want the child tested, i.e. “My 3-year-old hits and bites and doesn’t speak very much.” Also request a copy of the parents’ rights form and the school’s legal timeline for testing and services. Tell the family to date this letter and keep a copy for their records. The school has 15 calendar days to respond to the written referral with an assessment plan.

If you have any concerns about a child in your care, don’t delay in talking about your concerns with the parents. Urge the parents not to ignore the symptoms or wait until the child gets older. Early intervention works; it has been proven to reduce the number of children who continue in special education and require more intensive services later in life. Tell parents that the services are free to families and that all children will be tested in their primary language.

Where Can Parents Turn?

The CARE Parent Network offers information about referrals to other agencies, as well as training and support for families in Contra Costa County who have children with special needs.

By law, (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA) school districts are required to provide a free and appropriate education to all children with disabilities. Some school districts also help infants. The local school district is responsible for evaluating children with special educational needs, at no cost to the parents, and placing the eligible children in appropriate education programs within a certain amount of time. When you call, ask for the Office of Special Education and say you want to “make a referral.”

Resources in Contra Costa County:

  • Center for Access to Resources and Education (CARE) 800-281-3023
  • Regional Center of the East Bay Concord 925-798-3001 Oakland 510-383-1200
  • Contra Costa County Office of Education 925-942-3376
  • Special Education Local Planning Area (SELPA) 925-827-0949
  • Child Health and Disability Prevention (CHDP) 925-313-6150
  • Early Childhood Mental Health (West Contra Costa County) 510-412-9200
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