What is an Early Childhood Direction Center?
The Early Childhood Direction Center, also known as an ECDC, is a place where parents can call for information and assistance related to programs and services for children, under age 5, who have special needs or whom you suspect may have a delay in their development. Special needs may include difficulty talking, moving around, thinking, learning, or behaving. The ECDC also provides information and assistance to agencies, professionals, and other members of your community. You can call a Direction Center to talk about any concern you may have about your child.
Is there an ECDC in my area?
There are 14 ECDCs covering every county and borough in New York State. We have provided a link to the Direction Centers at the end of these questions. You can get information by calling the Center nearest where you live.
What kinds of information do the Centers provide?
People who work in the ECDCs provide information about:
- infant and toddler services,
- preschool programs,
- special education services,
- evaluation and assessment services,
- medical, educational, and social services,
- day care and Headstart programs,
- early intervention services,
- financial assistance, including questions on insurance and Supplemental Security Income (SSI),
- health services,
- respite/recreation programs,and
- parent education programs and support groups.
What kinds of services can I receive?
ECDCs can help you in many ways. They:
- assist in obtaining services for your child,
- match the individual needs of your child with services available in the community,
- make referrals to agencies that can provide direct services near where you live,
- coordinate services between agencies and providers, and
- follow-up to ensure that your child is receiving all the services needed.
Is the ECDC only for children who have special needs?
The ECDCs focus on providing information and referral assistance to families of children with special needs who are under school age. You can, however, talk to the staff confidentially about any concern you have about your family or other children.
Are services available for families who have foster children?
Yes. ECDCs work with foster placement agencies and assist foster families and guardians in securing needed services for children, with special needs, who are in their care. If necessary, the ECDC will also work with the caseworker of the placement agency.
How do I know if my child has any special needs or a disability?
Call the ECDC to ask questions about child development. The staff has materials they can send to help you monitor your child's growth and development. They can also tell you about the resources in your community. Any information you provide to the ECDC staff about your child, family or needs is strictly confidential.
Are ECDC services based on economic need?
No. All services are provided free of charge.
Who makes the decision about what services my child receives?
Only YOU, as the parent, will make the final decision about any services for your child. The ECDC staff will give you information about programs and services in your community and tell you what options are available to you. Once you have the information, you will be able to choose the program or service that best meets the needs of your family.
Will the same person be available every time I call the ECDC?
You can usually expect to talk to the same person at the ECDC. When you first call, be sure to ask for the name of the person who is helping you. You should feel free to ask for that person whenever you call. Many families wish to speak with someone in a language other than English. Many of the ECDCs have bilingual staff available, or they can refer you to a community agency that can answer your questions in your preferred language.
What kind of follow-up can I expect?
Each ECDC provides follow-up services until your child reaches school age. This occurs several ways. Some ECDCs call or send letters to partners every three to six months to see how things are going. Each ECDC contacts families at least once a year. Feel free to call an ECDC any time there is a change in your child's needs.
Do I have rights as a parent of a child with special needs?
Yes, you do. If your child is under age three, your rights and responsibilities are guided by the Early Intervention System. If your child is age three to five years and has special learning needs, the preschool special education process through your local school district protects your rights.
How do I learn about my rights?
The ECDCs can assist you and provide you with information on your rights and responsibilities. There are guides that are available to you through the centers.
Can I talk to other parents?
There are parents you can talk to in every community. These parents may have experienced the same feelings, worries, and questions that you have. It is a good idea to meet and speak with other parents. ECDC staff can link you up with parent support groups in your community. Some sibling supports are also available. These groups usually meet on a regular basis and welcome the participation of new parents and families.
What is the advantage of calling an ECDC for assistance?
ECDCs have many years of experience in your community and have direct access to resources. Because of this, they can help you get your child all the services that are needed. All the information you need can be provided by the ECDC you contact. And, if you move to another part of the State, you will immediately be referred to the ECDC in your new area.