Services for Disabled Children

Children need access to health services, especially those with the most severe conditions and developmental delays.

Crucial for children with developmental concerns is early intervention. A child’s first three years are the most important time for brain development. Prior to funding cuts, Florida’s Early Steps program served children at-risk of developmental delays to help provide necessary services when they would make the largest impact. Today, the program has been weakened and primarily serves children with “significant delays or an established medical condition that will likely result in a delay.” Legislation in the 2016 session redesigned the Early Steps program and expanded eligibility, but data on additional children served has yet to be available.

Early Steps Investment Needs to Follow Policy Change

At-risk children who fail to get necessary interventions become school-age children who require services. If appropriately funded, last session’s changes could result in an estimated 1,000 additional children with access to Early Steps’ important services. Investment needs to follow the policy change to ensure children at-risk for developmental delays receive intervention when they need it most.

Issues with the Children’s Medical Service Network Must be Addressed

In 2015, the Department of Health came under fire when more than 13,000 special needs children were “transitioned” out of the Children’s Medical Service Network (CMS Network), the state’s collection of programs for children with the most severe medical issues, into Medicaid managed care that was less expensive for the state. Eligibility screening for CMS was an issue and resulted in failure to enroll eligible children for almost four months. Legislative intervention and new leadership at DOH put the program on a better path.

In 2016, legislation was proposed that sought to broaden the language and establish an assessment instrument for determining CMS-eligibility. Despite the need for change, both the House and Senate versions of the legislation died in committee.


  • Support Early Steps: Utilize new data to continue to expand the program’s reach to children at-risk of developmental disabilities. Children who meet qualifications to access services should receive them.
  • Address eligibility and assessment issues facing Children’s Medical Services: Children with the most severe medical issues should not struggle with how to become eligible to receive the care, immediate intervention and assistance they need.

Additional Resources

Disclaimer: These links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. They do not constitute an endorsement or approval by The Children’s Campaign or its affiliate organizations and partners.

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