As a parent, realizing that your child may not be meeting developmental milestones can be a difficult moment. Deciding on the next steps can be even more challenging, and it can feel overwhelming. Early intervention should always be a priority, but it’s important to consider who and when you enlist for services, as this can make a significant difference. Many states understand the importance of supporting parents in accessing early intervention services. To this end, several programs have been established, such as Babies Can’t Wait (BCW) in Georgia, to assist families and children. However, government-based services can sometimes present challenges to accessing these services. Let us provide you with guidance on how you can make the most of this program for the benefit of your family.
What is Babies Can’t Wait?
BCW is Georgia’s statewide interagency service delivery system for infants and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities and their families. BCW is established by Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which guarantees all eligible children, regardless of their disability, access to services that will enhance their development.
Part C early intervention builds upon and provides supports and resources to assist family members and caregivers to enhance children’s learning and development through everyday learning opportunities.
In layman’s term:
BCW is a government-mandated program that provides assistance in the coordination of medical and educational services needed for children with disabilities between the ages of birth to three. Families are provided with treatment and coaching within the home to encourage carryover opportunities throughout the child’s day.
What specific services does Babies Can’t Wait provide?
- Multidisciplinary evaluation to determine eligibility and multidisciplinary assessments to determine the scope of services needed.
- Service coordination assists the family and other professionals in developing a plan to enhance the child\’s development.
Both services are completed free of charge.
In layman’s term:
An evaluation is coordinated by an Intake Service Coordinator who works with parents to identify the primary area of concern and locates a team of state-contracted professionals (which may include speech, occupational, or physical therapist) to evaluate as a team and determine your child’s present levels. If your child has been previously diagnosed by a medical doctor with a category 1 disorder, they are automatically eligible for Georgia’s early intervention services in primary need. Coordination and evaluation are completed free of charge.
Once determined eligible, an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is developed, which outlines the treatments a child will receive — whether it be speech and occupational therapy or speech therapy only, etc. The state of Georgia uses the primary service provider model. The IFSP is a legal document that is fluid (it can be updated and changed at any time with the parents’ knowledge and participation). The state must abide by the listed services within the document.
As it relates to paying for the services a family receives, BCW becomes the payor of last resort. This means if a family has insurance, the insurance (Medicaid or private carrier) will be billed for therapy services provided via a BCW contracted therapist. If the family’s insurance pays for any part of the billed services, Babies Can’t Wait will pay the remaining balance, if any. If a family’s insurance denies payment, BCW will instead be billed for each treatment provided and the family will be responsible for a percentage. If a family does not have insurance or coverage for the service, a cost-participation model using a sliding fee scale is implemented.
Who provides services within Babies Can’t Wait?
Services are provided by agencies and individuals from both public and private sectors.
In layman’s term:
BCW has providers (therapists and instructors) and coordinators who are government employees, but in most cases, the team coming into your home and evaluating your child are comprised of contractors. The therapist and service coordinators or the companies they work for can be found in your own community and you have access to these professionals just as you do your child’s doctor.
A search on Google (paired with your zip code) can lead you to the same therapists and others. Many of these therapists can evaluate and provide services for your child in your home, daycare or another natural environment. This occurs without the wait and red tape associated with the laborious paperwork often required by government programs, such as Babies Can’t Wait.
What You Should Know About Gerogia Early Intervention Services
- Families are not always aware of the timelines, shortages of health professionals (PT, OT, Speech) within the BCW program, and lack of funding, which can add considerable time to the ever-closing window of opportunity in healthy child development. Once referred, BCW has 45 days to evaluate and then another 45 days to develop an IFSP and initiate services, if your child qualified. The efficiency of the program varies by county, though they must all operate within the government-mandated timelines.
- When seeking early intervention services via Babies Can’t Wait, you have the option not to provide your insurance information. If your child qualifies for early intervention, services cannot be withheld because of this. Be aware that you will be responsible for payment based on a sliding fee scale (cost-participation %).
- If you have insurance that covers your child’s diagnosis, parents can seek a provider (PT, OT, Speech) on their own and not utilize BCW services for therapeutic intervention (maintenance of BCW service coordination is recommended). Many community providers are able to refer parents to the appropriate professionals without the possible (90 day) wait. Use these talking points to guide your conversation with your insurance company to determine if you have coverage.
- If there is a need for multiple therapies, BCW functions via a primary service provider/collaborative model (vs. a medical model) where, for example, a physical therapist will consult with a speech therapist to provide therapeutic speech techniques during the physical therapy session. In this instance, speech therapy would not be provided by a speech therapist. Additionally, it is not unusual for a child to receive services by a special instructor (a bachelor or master’s level education) in lieu of a skilled therapist due to shortages in skilled providers (OT, PT, ST).
- Other options in paying for all therapies needed outside of BCW include the Katie Beckett Deeming Waiver, which provides funding regardless of household income through Medicaid. Using this waiver offers your child the opportunity to receive services via a medical model, where each discipline evaluates and provides treatment to the child as needed.
- BCW is most beneficial for families without insurance, those who do not qualify for the Katie Beckett Deeming Waiver, families whose insurance does not cover their child’s specific diagnosis, those with a high deductible, children whose insurance provider’s network is lacking, or families with mobility or transportation concerns.
- If your child is found eligible for BCW, a transition service that prepares your child for free preschool placement at the age of three is available to prevent a gap in services — this is called Part B Section 619. Transition services are available to your child even if you opt-out of receiving therapy through BCW — you can request to still be paired with a service coordinator who will monitor your child until the age of three. Their local school system will evaluate your child to determine if they are eligible to continue receiving therapy via your neighborhood school and/or a special education classroom placement. The individual therapy your child received in BCW or in private therapy is often not what will be offered by a school-based speech-language pathologist. Public School Therapy differs from private therapy. Know, that you can elect to enroll your child in school-based therapies and still pursue private therapy.
- If your child receives Medicaid benefits, it is important that you understand that you have the right to deny the school access to your Medicaid benefits — this does not change the services your child is eligible to receive via an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).