How many of you are aware of the Babies Can’t Wait Program in Georgia which is a state wide program services providing services to infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families? For those families who have an infant or toddler aged birth until age three years old, do you know your rights under this program. How it is similar to the IDEA for children age 3 through 21 years old? How is different from the IDEA? These are a few of the many questions that you should might ask if you have an infant or toddler with a disability.
One of the primary purposes of the Babies Can’t Wait Program in Georgia is to provide early intervention services to infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. The Babies Can’t Wait Program was developed in 1986 when the then-Educational for All Handicapped Children’s Program was amended to provide services to families of infants and toddlers in each state. You can find the statutory authority for this program under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, 20 U.S.C. 1431-1444. The definition of a infant or toddler with a disability is an individual under 3 years of age who needs early intervention services because the individual is experiencing developmental delays in one or more areas of cognitive development, physical development, communication development, social or emotional development, and adaptive development; or has diagnosed physical or mental condition that has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay and may also include at the State’s discretion at-risk toddlers and infants and children with disabilities that are eligible under 20 U.S.C. 1419. In Georgia, the Babies Can’t Wait Program is administered and implemented by the Department of Public Health. Under the IDEA, children 3 years old through 21 years old is administered by the Georgia Department of Education.
The main focus on the Babies Can’t Wait Program is to provide services to families of infants and toddlers. An Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is required to be developed for eligible families. The IFSP is similar to an IEP but its primary focus is on the overall needs of the family including the infant or toddler as opposed to the educational needs of a child. With the written consent of the parents, an IFSP can be developed and implemented instead of an IEP from the child’s 3rd birthday until the child is eligible to enter kindergarten. Parents of infants and toddlers with disabilities also have similar procedural rights under the Babies Can’t Wait Program as found under the IDEA such as filing complaints, confidentiality of records, examine records, and other related rights and safeguards. In general, the services provided to the infant or toddler with disabilities is at no cost to the family, but if the parents have private health insurance, or the infant or toddler is eligible to receive Medicaid, or the Katie Beckett deeming waiver then these funds may be used for providers under certain circumstances.
How is the Babies Can’t Wait Program helping your family? Are you receiving timely and appropriate services for your infant or toddler? If not, you can do something about it. Find out more about the Babies Can’t Wait Program at dph.georgia.gov/Babies-Cant-Wait. You can also contact an advocate or attorney who concentrates in this area for more information and assistance. Many families in Georgia do not know about their rights under this program and are not receiving appropriate services and planning for their infant or toddler with disabilities. Do not be one of them.