Young children with unique challenges have a bright future in our region, thanks to the Child Find program.
Child Find is a mandate developed through the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act that requires all states to create plans to ensure that children with individual needs are matched with available public education services to help them thrive. The program applies to kids from birth to age 21. All children, including those who are homeschooled or in private schools or without homes or migrants are eligible for the program.
Kids who may be struggling in areas such as academics, communication, motor skills, social and emotional aspects and/or hearing and vision can be evaluated and matched with services that best address their needs. Child Find programs can start evaluating kids as early as infancy, with an emphasis on identifying children ages 0 to 5.
“Early intervention is the goal,” explained Michelle Brenner, executive director of special education at Boulder Valley School District. “The earlier we get to kids, the more their needs are remediated, often at that earlier level. And they may not need services later on.”
Once evaluated through a multi-disciplinary approach, an Individualized Education Program is developed to address each child’s needs to ensure they receive help in their specific area.
“When you are in a family and you know that something is going on (with a child) but you don’t know what it is, it can be stressful,” Brenner said. The district’s veteran Child Find Team “does a really nice job of making parents feel welcome, accepted and understood. … They really wrap around them and help families know what they can do to help them.”
Laura Gold, Child Find and Frederick feeder coordinator for St. Vrain Valley School District, echoed the importance of contacting and evaluating children at a young age.
“Child Find is very well-received in the district. The mission and purpose is all around early intervention for those students who need it so we can provide really great services that, hopefully, are only needed for a short amount of time,” she explained.
Gold said Child Find is enhanced through community involvement. In the St. Vrain Valley School District, about 90 percent of the referrals to Child Find for birth to age 3 come from doctors.
She said Shela Blankinship, the district preschool coordinator, has done a good job in building partnerships with private preschools. In turn, community partners will reach out if children’s needs can be better met through Child Find.
“The students identified in Child Find receive services in our robust preschool program so they are even more prepared for their education beginning in Kindergarten,” Gold added.
By Kathleen Duff for Raised in the Rockies