Too many young kids left behind

Kristen and other Easter Seals supporters from Illinois meet with Sen. Mark KirkI was lucky to be among the 300+ Easter Seals volunteers, staff and families from across the country who visited Capitol Hill last week to deliver a very important message on early intervention. We asked every Member of Congress to invest more in young children with disabilities, delays and autism. And carried with us a petition with more than 40,000 signatures to prove we meant business and that many of you strongly support this issue. It was a pretty incredible day and experience.

On that same day, we also released a new report, Our Nation’s Children at Risk: A State-by-State Report on Early Intervention. It provides a comprehensive overview of the current state of early intervention funding (through Part C of IDEA) in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report also sheds light on how well each state takes care of its youngest children. As you might expect, the headline from our report isn’t glowing. The fact is, we’re just not doing enough for our nation’s youngest and most vulnerable children. Far too many infants and toddlers are being left behind — we fail to identify more than 1.45 million kids under age 5 with special needs each year — and many will never catch up.

Here’s an excerpt from Health Editor Kara Corridan via Parents magazine’s Goody Blog about the report:

Today Easter Seals, the nonprofit provider of services for individuals with autism and other disabilities, released a report that outlines how well each state takes care of its youngest children with special needs. To determine this, researchers looked at how much money every state is given to provide early intervention services through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part C program. This program offers free services for families of children under age 3 with developmental disabilities or delays, and in October it celebrated its 25th anniversary, but it’s never been fully or adequately funded. Just 2.67 percent of children are enrolled in the program, but early childhood experts estimate that anywhere from 13 to 20 percent of kids under 3 could benefit from its services.

Overall, the Easter Seals report has a sad bottom line: In almost every state, infants and toddlers with delays don’t get the help they need, and they may never catch up. I went straight to the page for New Jersey, since that’s where I live, and was discouraged to see that our state receives $809,000 less in federal funding for early intervention services than it did last year. Virtually every state has seen their funding drop, though some states, like New Hampshire, have the same amount, and California, Virginia, and New York have actually gotten slightly more funding through Part C in the past year.

Want to do something about this? Support Easter Seals’ Make the First Five Count initiative and sign the petition to Congress opposing any more cuts to Part C — in your state and everyone else’s. And if you think your child might benefit from early intervention, talk to your pediatrician, or find an Easter Seals near you — they are here to help.

Thanks, Kara. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.


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