Children & Youth with Special Needs

Children 1st

Children 1st is a free service offered by the state of Georgia. The heart of Children 1st is its tracking and monitoring program. Through collaboration with local pediatric practices, Children 1st is able to monitor the health and development of every child enrolled in the program through doctors' visits that the child would ordinarily make. Children 1st sends periodic tracking letters to these pediatricians for each child enrolled.

Only when a pediatrician responds with a concern about the child does Children 1st attempt to contact the family. This system enables Children lst to ensure that each family gets the resources needed for its unique situation without being invasive or inconvenient.

All children aged  birth to five years who face situations that have the potential to hinder their growth and development. Situations can be social or medical.

The early years of life are critical for a child's development.  Monitoring programs such as Children 1st ensure that developmental and medical concerns are identified and addressed before children leave this vital developmental period.  Early childhood monitoring and intervention allows at-risk children to reach school age healthy and ready to succeed.

Anyone. Children  1st accepts referrals from physicians, daycares, parents, and others.

After a referral is made, Children lst will contact the family to schedule a family assessment. This brief assessment includes basic information,  medical history, an examination of family strengths and concerns, and a developmental screening. This assessment usually takes place at the child's local health department. Once the assessment is completed, Children  1st begins monitoring the child's health and development through their pediatrician.

Medical or developmental concerns may be found during the initial family assessment or later through the tracking program. If a concern is found, Children lst will assist the family in finding the resources they need. If necessary,  Children  1st will refer the child to other programs to receive services.

Programs may include:

  • Babies Can't Wait
  • Children's Medical Services
  • Early Hearing Detection and Intervention

Babies Can't Wait

Babies Can't Wait (BCW) is Georgia's Early Intervention Program. Babies Can't Wait helps families of young children who are experiencing developmental delays or have diagnosed conditions that may result in developmental delays.

Children aged birth through their third birthday, regardless of income, may be eligible for Babies Can't Wait in one of two ways:
1.    Children who have certain diagnosed conditions may be eligible automatically.
Down Syndrome, spina bifida, and cerebral palsy are examples of such conditions.
2.    Children who are very far behind their peers in learning to turn over, crawl, walk, and talk, as well as children who may have emotional, speech, or hearing and vision problems.

The program provides:

•    Evaluations to determine a child's eligibility and assesses the child's level of development
•    Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) based on the child's and family's needs
•    Provides interventions in a child's and family's natural environment (where the child lives, learns and plays)
•    Service coordination to assure the child is getting the interventions needed
•    Transition services to the child's local school system by the time the child reaches age three

Some service costs are based on ability to pay. No one is turned away because of inability to pay.

For more information please contact 478-275-6841 or your local health department.

Children's Medical Services 

Children’s Medical Services is a statewide program that supports children, youth, and young adults (birth – 21  years of age) with special healthcare needs and their families. Children’s Medical Services provides assistance to eligible families and young adults with accessing timely and affordable health care services as well as needed resources within their communities.

Children’s Medical Services works with the child and young adult’s primary and specialty providers  to provide or coordinate for:

  • Genetic counseling
  • Inpatient/outpatient hospitalization
  • Durable medical equipment
  • Medications and supplies
  • Diagnostic testing

Eligibility for the Children’s Medical Services program is based on the following:

  • Eligible medical condition
  • Annual family income
  • Georgia resident

Examples of eligible medical conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • Asthma, cystic fibrosis, and other lung disorders
  • Some hearing disorders
  • Neurological and neurosurgery disorders including seizures, benign tumors, hydrocephalus, and others
  • Orthopedic and/or neuromuscular disorders including cerebral palsy, spina bifida, scoliosis, clubfeet, congenital or traumatic amputations of limbs, and others
  • Visual disorders including cataracts, glaucoma, strabismus, and others
  • Diabetes and other endocrine and genetic disorders
  • Craniofacial anomalies (including cleft lip/palate)
  • Congenital cardiac conditions


For more information about eligibility, services provided, and enrollment into the program please call (478) 275-5116.


Georgia Department of Public Health Children’s Medical Services Program

Parent to Parent of Georgia

Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia

American Academy of Pediatrics – GA Chapter

Early Hearing Detection and Intervention

Newborn hearing screening is screening for hearing loss.  All babies should be screened for hearing loss before one month of age.  The screening is typically done before the baby leaves the birthing facility.

What does the program do?

 The  Early Hearing Detection and Intervention ( EHDI) Program maintains and supports a comprehensive, coordinated, statewide screening and referral system. EHDI includes:

  • Screening for hearing loss in the birthing hospital
  • Referral of those who do not pass the hospital screening for diagnostic audiological evaluation
  •  Linkage to appropriate intervention for those babies diagnosed with hearing loss
  • Technical assistance and training for implementing and maintaining a quality newborn hearing screening program is provided to hospitals, primary care physicians, audiologists, early interventionists, and public health staff.

Why is the program important?

The most crucial period for language development is the first year of life. Without newborn screening, hearing loss is typically not identified until two years of age. Universal screening for all newborns prior to discharge from the hospital or birthing center is essential for the earliest possible identification of hearing loss and, consequently, for language, communication, educational and reading potential to be maximized.

More than half of babies born with hearing problems are otherwise healthy and have no family history of hearing loss.  If your baby has hearing loss, you can still help your baby develop language skills. The sooner you act, the better the outcome.  Screening for hearing loss as early as possible is important for your baby because:

  • Early screening allows for early treatment, if hearing loss is detected
  • Early treatment can provide earlier sound stimulation for your baby’s brain

Where are services located?

Birthing facilities in Georgia are regularly screening newborns for hearing loss prior to hospital discharge.


Georgia Department of Public Health Newborn Screening Program


Help Me Grow Georgia

Provides healthcare referalls to families with children birth to 8 years old. Referals include to medical, vision, and dental providers, developmental screenings, day care providers, early learning resources as well as behavioral services. 

Click here for the website.

To call, dial (888) HLP- GROW (+1 888-457-4769) Monday to  Friday 8AM-5PM 

Healthy Mother's Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia: 

Provide services to expectant families. Services include prenatal education and resources to expectant mothers, breastfeeding support and education, and assistance with accessing health insurance. 

Click here for the website. 

Click here for the Health Mother's Healthy Babies Portal. 

Find Help Georgia: 

Provides local resources for individuals and families. Resources includes financial assistance, food pantries, medical care, help to pay for childcare, job training, and other free or low cost services.

Click here for the website. 
To call, dial 1- 800- 244- 5373. Monday to Friday 8AM-6PM


For more information, please contact:

Phone: 478-275-6841
Toll-Free: 1-888-262-8305
Fax: 478-274-7893