The Role of State Lead Agency Designation in Early Childhood Intervention

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IDEA Part C has seen many reforms in support of identifying and servicing preschool-aged children with established developmental delays or disabilities with early intervention (EI). Noted variations in EI funding by state have been correlated with children going unidentified or deemed ineligible for needed services. This quantitative study explored variations in restrictiveness of eligibility as a potential root cause of funding differences over a period of three consecutive years. The findings conclusively indicated no statistical significance to support any relationship between lead agencies and the two independent variables (funding and eligibility criteria). The statistical analyses supported the null hypotheses, confirming no relationship between the variables. However, the outcomes did indicate other important notes. The human service category of lead agencies saw a spike in per capita spending in 2014 from the two years prior; calling for more investigation of those agency types in particular. Per child spending in US territories averaged nearly fourteen times the per capita expenditures of the states; another matter worth further investigation. Lastly, the three years in review saw a consistent increase in distribution of the state per child funding averages. Results should be used to identify best practices of those agencies implementing EI services for more children, on the same budget as others who are outspending them. In order to increase equality in eligibility across states, as well as decrease number of children missed for early intervention services, agencies should use the study results to identify lead agencies in their same category, who they can use as a model to help improve child find identification and service provision.