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Child Development

All children deserve to reach their full potential. Early intervention makes that possible.

The Department of Early Childhood offers free developmental screenings. Early intervention services are available to children who need them.

What is a developmental screening? A developmental screening can help you make sure your child is getting what they need. Screenings look at how a child moves, plays, talks, and interacts at different ages. They can tell you if your child’s development is on track. 

Identifying developmental delays and getting extra help as soon as a delay is identified is important. It can make a big difference for your child.

How to Get a Developmental Screening

The Department of Early Childhood offers free developmental screenings and early intervention services through its Screening and Inclusion Team and Support for Families. There are different ways to get a free developmental screening in San Francisco.

At your pediatrician’s office

In San Francisco, pediatricians screen children birth to age 3. Your pediatrician can also answer any questions you have about your child’s development, and connect you with the Department of Early Childhood if you need more support. Ask your pediatrician about getting a developmental screening.

At your child care program

The Department of Early Childhood helps all City-funded child care programs screen children ages 3-5. We also help make sure children’s development is being supported in the classroom. Ask your child’s teacher or provider if they screen your child.

At a Family Resource Center

There are 26 family resource centers located throughout neighborhoods in San Francisco. They offer free services for families. Find a family resource center near you, and drop in or contact them to get a free developmental screening.

Through the Department of Early Childhood

If your child hasn’t received a developmental screening from your pediatrician or child care program and you have any concerns about your child’s development, contact our partner Support for Families at to get a free screening and support.

What to Do When Concerns Come Up

All children develop at their own pace–every child is different! But a developmental screening can tell you if there’s anything to be concerned about. If there is, you’ll have access to services to help.

If you, your child’s doctor, or other care provider is concerned about your child’s development, ask to be connected with an early intervention program to get a developmental evaluation. You can reach out yourself to request an evaluation and a doctor’s referral is not necessary. These publicly funded programs provide services for free or at a reduced cost for any child who is eligible. 

You can also connect with Support for Families to help you with requesting an evaluation and eligibility process. They are your advocates. 

For more community support, check out our family resource center calendar for parent workshops and family support groups that are available all over the city.

More About Developmental Milestones

Developmental milestones tell you how most children move, play, talk, and interact at specific ages. All children develop at their own pace, but milestones can help you know if your child is on track for his or her age. This list shows you some examples of different milestones.

By 3 Months

By 6 Months

By 9 Months

By 18 Months

By 2 Years

By 3 Years

By 4 Years

These are just a few of many important milestones to look for. For more complete checklists by age, visit

Get Sparkler

The Department of Early Childhood is offering Sparkler – a mobile app – to all parents and guardians with young children and to programs serving those families. You can use the Sparkler app to check on your child’s development, work together with your child’s educator to support their development, and find fun science-backed activities to do at home with your child.

All San Francisco families with children from birth through five can access Sparkler for free to support their children’s early development. Families can download Sparkler from Apple App Store and Google Play in English, Spanish, and Chinese on smartphones or tablets. Use code SF or your program code from your child care program, family resource center, or healthcare provider, if you have one.

To learn more visit San Francisco’s Sparkler webpage.

Early Intervention Resources


Developmental Monitoring: involves observing how your child grows and whether your child meets the typical developmental milestones, or skills that most children reach by a certain age, in playing, learning, speaking, behaving, and moving.

Developmental Screening: is a standardized tool (either a parent questionnaire or an observational) that has been validated by research to learn more about the child’s development. It is used to identify infants, toddlers, and young children who may be at risk for potential health, developmental, or social-emotional concerns.  

Developmental Evaluation: A formal developmental evaluation may be needed if the developmental screening tool identifies an area of concern. This formal evaluation is a more in-depth look at a child’s development, usually done by a trained specialist, such as a developmental pediatrician, child psychologist, speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, or other specialists. The results of this formal evaluation determine whether a child needs specific treatments, early intervention services, or both.

Early Intervention: the services and supports that are available to babies and young children with developmental delays and disabilities and their families. May include speech therapy, physical therapy, and other types of services based on the child’s and family’s needs. Can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to learn new skills and overcome challenges and can increase success in school and life.

Source: CDC: Learn the Signs. Act Early.