Early Intervention History

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Federal Investment in Early Childhood Intervention

The United States government has been advocating the early influence on health and development of children since the early 1900’s. Congress established a Children’s Bureau in the Department of Labor in 1912. The purpose of this sub-department was “to investigate and report … upon all matters pertaining to the welfare of children and child life among all classes of our people.” (Meisels & Shonkoff)

In the Bureau’s first printed annual report, it was noted that particular attention would be paid to “those who were abnormal or subnormal or suffering from physical or mental illness.” (Meisels & Shonkoff) Studies began in daycares, institutional care, preschools in selected cities and the care of mentally retarded and/or “crippled” children. The term crippled was often used during that time for anyone with a physical or medical disability. The studies by the Bureau were the first admission the federal government made showing they held responsibility for children’s welfare.

The Bureau continued their research at state levels. This began development of programs to provide services for children with disabilities, with notes to make it work even for the poor.

In 1930, it was recommended at the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection that federal funds be made available to the states to establish programs that offered services to children with disabilities. The idea was that these services would combine opinions from medical, educational, social welfare and vocational rehabilitation agencies. The Social Security Act (1935) contained 3 specific pieces that defined funding allocation and program development that set the bar for future Early Childhood Intervention programs. The Social Security Act provisions focused on children with obvious medical issues, mostly orthopedic through the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s.

In the 1950’s, Medicaid provided a shortfalling requirement that children...
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