Pennsylvania’s Early Intervention Services provide assistance for disadvantaged infants and toddlers in effort to avoid developmental delays that often affect children who have experienced early trauma or are disabled. But prior to a bill passed last month, children needed to fit into one of five categories to qualify: they had to weigh less than 1500 grams at birth, been born to a chemically dependent mother, been seriously abused or neglected, been in neonatal intensive care, or been exposed to dangerous levels of lead poisoning.
On October 14, Governor Tom Corbett passed a bill amending the Early Intervention Services Act of 1990 to include a sixth category for homeless infants and toddlers. Now any child who has experienced homelessness is automatically eligible for assistance under the law. The types of assistance include:
- Physical development, including vision and hearing
- Cognitive development
- Communication development
- Social or emotional development
- Adaptive development
Other children could receive Early Intervention Services prior to the amendment, but they had to be tested to determine if they were in fact in need. The bill’s supporters argued that this barrier was particularly difficult for homeless parents and children.
“If a child does not fall into one of the above categories, the parent must have their child tested in order to qualify for early intervention services. In the case of a homeless parent, often times they will not seek out help for their children for fear that their child might be taken away due to their circumstances. These children then go unheard and unseen by professionals who can help to improve their current and future lives,” stated a memo from the bill’s sponsor Rep. Justin Simmons.
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The way it works is the state, through the Department of Education, identifies and tracks children who require assistance and then refers them to services available in their communities. In Philadelphia, there are around 50 organizations that serve as providers, including different kinds of therapy, special instruction and social work.
It is estimated that 6,000 Pennsylvania infants and toddlers — birth to 3 years old — experience homelessness each year, according to the Campaign for What Works, a proponent of the bill and an advocate for better governance.
Read the full bill here.
Above image is a screen cap of the bill’s pdf
Featured image via Governor Corbett’s Facebook page-30-
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