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Child Find
IDEA 2004 l Early Intervention l Articles l Caselaw l Resources

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What is Child Find?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act includes the Child Find mandate. Child Find requires all school districts to identify, locate and evaluate all children with disabilities, regardless of the severity of their disabilities. This obligation to identify all children who may need special education services exists even if the school is not providing special education services to the child.

Group of school children

The IDEA requires all States to develop and implement a practical method of determining which children with disabilities are receiving special education and related services and which children are not. (20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(3); Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, pages 72, 206-207).

Who is Covered by Child Find?

Schools are required to locate, identify and evaluate all children with disabilities from birth through age 21. The Child Find mandate applies to all children who reside within a State, including children who attend private schools and public schools, highly mobile children, migrant children, homeless children, and children who are wards of the state. (20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(3))

This includes all children who are suspected of having a disability, including children who receive passing grades and are "advancing from grade to grade." (34 CFR 300.111(c)) The law does not require children to be "labeled" or classified by their disability. (20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(3)(B); 34 CFR 300.111(d)).

Child Find and IDEA 2004

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004. The primary purpose of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is to ensure that all children with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education, including special education and related services that are "designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living …"

IDEA 2004: Section 1412 - State Responsibilities ("Catch-all" statute) Child Find - 20 U.S.C.1412 a(3)

Note: You will find the Child Find requirements in Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, pages 72, 206-207]

Building the Legacy:IDEA 2004, U.S. Department of Education
Statute: Title I(B)(612)(a)(10)(A)(iii)

To ensure timely and meaningful consultation, a local educational agency, or where appropriate, a State educational agency, shall consult with private school representatives and representatives of parents of parentally placed private school children with disabilities during the design and development of special education and related services for the children, including regarding--

(I) the child find process and how parentally placed private school children suspected of having a disability can participate equitably, including how parents, teachers, and private school officials will be informed of the process; read more

Provisions Related to Children with Disabilities Enrolled by their Parents in Private School from the Office of Special Education Programs. IDEA Regulations: Child Find - Require LEAs where private schools are located to conduct child find for children in private schools.

Early Intervention (Part C)

Child Find for infants and toddlers is governed by the Early Intervention Regulations (34 C.F.R. 303.321) consistent with Part B of IDEA 04 (34 C.F.R. 300.128).

Congress encourages states to provide Early Intervention Services so children with developmental delays and other disabilities will receive treatment early. Congress enacted the Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers to provide interagency coordination of services to children from birth to two years of age. Under IDEA, states must ensure that children with disabilities are eligible for special education services by age three.

Early intervention programs may be administered by multiple agencies but are coordinated by an interagency team headed by a lead agency. This agency is responsible for ensuring that infants and toddlers suspected of having a disability are identified and that the various agencies involved have a referral system in place. Once a referral is made, a service coordinator is appointed and must complete an evaluation within 45 days.

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Here are links to articles about Child Find. For additional articles, please visit the Advocacy Library.

The Child Find Mandate: What Does It Mean to You? This article by Pam and Pete Wright explains the child find mandate in IDEA 2004. It explains what child find is, who it covers and how it is implemented. It also provides an analysis of why child find is necessary under the law and what the implications are for families with children with disabilities.

Judge Orders Sanctions Against School District, Remedies for Kids. This article is about the failure of a school system to identify and evaluate children suspected of having a disability. Pete and Pam Wright will walk you through the case, Jamie S. v. Milwaukee Public Schools, from the beginning. You'll see how the case became a class action case and what happened at trial.

Do Schools Have Any Legal Obligation to Identify and Test Students? Schools are required to identify and evaluate all children who may have disabilities under the Child Find mandate. If you have a student who is struggling and has not been evaluated or received any help, read what IDEA 2004 says about Child Find.

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Here are links to several important decisions about Child Find from our caselaw section. For more cases, please visit the Law Library.

Liability Due to Failure to Act

Jamie S. v. Milwaukee Public Schools (E.D. WI, Case # 01-C-928) On September 11,2007, a federal judge issued a decision in Jamie S. v. Milwaukee Public Schools, et. al. The judge found that Milwaukee Public Schools violated the Child Find provisions in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The Judge also found that the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction violated the IDEA by failing to discharge its supervisory responsibilities. Read the Class Action Notice.

Damages Under Child Find

W.B. v. Matula, 63 F.3d. 484 (3rd Cir. 1995). What happens if a school refuses to evaluate a child? In the fall of 1995, a landmark case about damages under Child Find was issued by the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Knable v. Bexley, 238 F.3d 755 (6th Cir. 2001) Case about child with behavior disorder; includes discussion of IEPs, draft IEPs, IEP requirements, tuition reimbursement, placement, burden of proof, more.

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Child Find - OSEP Policy Documents Regarding the Education of Infants, Toddlers, Children and Youth with Disabilities

Use the Yellow Pages for Kids Directory. Call or write your Department of Education for information on Child Find in your state.

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Created: 09/27/07
Revised: 07/31/18

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