Eligibility for Regional Center Services

Early Start (Ages 0-3) Family Resource Guides

Being diagnosed with a developmental disability is not solely enough to qualify. The following eligibility criteria are summarized from the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) website:

Who is eligible for services through the regional centers?

Infants and toddlers (age 0 to 36 months) who are at risk of having developmental disabilities or who have a developmental delay may qualify for services. The criteria for determining the eligibility of infants and toddlers is specified in Section 95014 of the California Government Codeas at least one of the following:

  • a developmental delay of at least 25% in one or more areas of either:
    • cognitive
    • communication
    • social or emotional
    • adaptive
    • physical and motor development including vision and hearing
  • an established risk condition of known etiology, with a high probability of delayed development
  • high risk of having a substantial developmental disability due to a combination of biomedical risk factors

In addition, individuals at risk of having a child with a developmental disability may be eligible for genetic diagnosis, counseling, and other prevention services. For information about these services, see Early Start.

In addition to meeting eligibility criteria, to qualify for services through Regional Center of Orange County the child must reside in Orange County. If the child lives in a county other than Orange, you can find the child's local Regional Center using this directory.

Regional Center eligibility criteria is defined by law, in Section 4512 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code.

Diagnoses that may qualify a person for Regional Center services include the following developmental disabilities:

  • Autism
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Epilepsy
  • Conditions closely related to, or that require treatment similar to, that required for an intellectual disability

In addition, to qualify for Regional Center services, a person’s developmental disability must:

  • originate prior to age 18
  • be expected to continue indefinitely
  • be a substantial disability as defined by Title 17, Section 54001 of the California Code of Regulations, meaning the person experiences significant limitations in three or more of the following areas:
    • self-care
    • language
    • learning
    • mobility
    • self-direction
    • capacity for independent living
    • economic self-sufficiency

(This definition does not include any handicapping condition that is solely psychiatric, solely a learning disability or solely physical in nature.) 

In addition to meeting eligibility criteria, to qualify for services through Regional Center of Orange County the individual must reside in Orange County. If the individual lives in a county other than Orange, you can find the local Regional Center using this directory.

Video Series: Determining Eligibility (Ages 3 and Older)
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Part 1 Part 1 Part 1
Part 2 Part 2 Part 2
Part 3 Part 3 Part 3

How does a person apply for services through RCOC?

In order to find out if you or your child is eligible to receive services through the Regional Center of Orange County (RCOC), you will need to complete the Early Start Program Application Packet.  Please select from one of the options below:

To determine your child’s eligibility for Early Start (birth to age 3) Services, RCOC will conduct a comprehensive intake process including an evaluation of your child’s developmental level and a review of available medical records/history. The Early Start Program Application Packet contains all of the forms required for RCOC to initiate the intake process.

Upon submitting a completed Early Start Program Application Packet, an Early Start Service Coordinator will be assigned to your child’s case and they will contact you to schedule an intake appointment.

The application can be submitted via:

      • DocuSign
      • Email:             intake@nullrcocdd.com
      • Fax:                 (714) 796-5200
      • US Mail:
          •     Regional Center of Orange County
          •     Attention: Intake Department
                        P.O. Box 22010, Santa Ana, CA 92702-2010

You may also call our main intake line at 714-796-5354 to discuss your concerns prior to filling out the application or if you would prefer to have the application mailed to you.

To inquire about applying for services, call RCOC’s Intake and Assessment Department at (714) 796-5354 or send an email to intake@nullrcocdd.com.  RCOC’s intake staff will assist you by walking through the application/referral and working with you to see what information RCOC will need you to submit to begin the intake process.

Parents, guardians, and conservators, or an adult with a developmental disability that originated prior to age 18 may initiate the application process. A professional, such as a pediatrician, or other interested parties may also do so, but only with permission from the individual or family.

For more information on the next steps after eligibility is determined, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions. 

Early Start Standardized Information Packet

The Early Start Information Packet provides an overview of the regional center system for individuals seeking services offered under the California Early Intervention Services Act (California Government code section 95000-95004). Additionally, the information packet provides a resource guide for individual and their families on person-served rights, contact information for their local regional center, the Department Office of Clients’ Rights Advocate and the protection and advocacy agency (W&I Code sections 4900-4906). For additional information, visit the DDS website.

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Referral Information for Physicians and Healthcare Providers

Physicians and healthcare providers, if you have a patient who fits any of the eligibility criteria listed above, please complete an RCOC Referral for Services Formand ask the patient or the patient’s parent to contact RCOC’s Intake and Assessment Unit at 714-796-5354 for an initial assessment to determine eligibility for services.

You can find more information about how to support individuals and families by going to our page specifically for Physicians and Healthcare Providers

Early Start Family Resource Guides

Family Introduction to Early Start Brochure

An easy-to-read overview of the benefits of early intervention during the first three years of a child’s life, this brochure explains the steps to take if you have concerns about your child’s development as well as what services are available if your child is determined eligible for Early Start.

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Reasons for Concern Brochure

This resource presents information about risk factors, developmental milestones, and links to agencies that provide Early Start information, services, and support for families of children with or at risk for developmental delays or disabilities.

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Early Start Family Resource Center Brochure

Parent-to-parent support through Family Resource Centers and Networks is a critical component of Early Start in California. This brochure introduces the statewide network of family resource centers, which are staffed by parents of children with special needs who actively collaborate with local regional centers and local education agencies to help parents and families access early intervention services.

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Early Start Community Infographic

This resource is an illustration of Early Start agencies, within the context of other service systems. QR codes provide links to websites with information about Early Start and other community agencies that provide services to young children and their families throughout California.

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