Planning the Future of Your Special Needs Child
Families of children with special needs have many things to consider when
planning for the future, such as where the individual will live, what
their daily life will be like and who will care for them. Planning is
especially important in these cases as there is often specific eligibility
criteria the individual has to meet to access such services in addition
to long waitlist for the services your child may be entitled - waitlists
which could be 5-10 years long.
- Here are some factors to consider in planning for your child's future:
Will my child be able to independently make personal decisions over his
personal and financial affairs? If not, would guardianship be appropriate?
Learn more about Guardianship
- What will my child be doing during the day after he or she graduates from
high school? College? Day program?
- Is my child registered with the appropriate state agencies that will be
responsible for providing services after high school? (NJ: DDD or DVRS;
PA: MH/MR or OVR) Will my child need SSI and/or Medicaid when he or she turns 18?
- Will my child be living independently, at home, supervised apartment or
a group home?
- Can my child inherit money outright when we pass away or will it jeopardize
Adult Day Programs
Depending on severity of the child's disability, some students may
go to college while others may be in need of supported employment through
job coaching and/or an adult day program. The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Services ("DVRS") in New Jersey and the Office of Vocational
Rehabilitation ("OVR") in Pennsylvania both help persons with
disabilities prepare for, obtain, or maintain employment on an individualized basis.
For those individuals with more severe disabilities, services may be available
the Division of Developmental Disabilities ("DDD") in New Jersey
and the county based Mental Health/Mental Retardation system in Pennsylvania.
These services may include but not be limited to job coaching, job placements
in a workplace or day program, and/or access to money to develop your
own individualized program through self-directed support services.
In many of these cases though, funding is extremely limited and as such,
there may be waitlists to access such services. Therefore, it's important
to plan early to maximize your child's chances to receiving such service
when the time is right.
The Division of Developmental Disabilities ("DDD") in New Jersey
and the county based Mental Health/Mental Retardation system in Pennsylvania
are also the state agencies that are primarily responsible for making
residential placements available to individuals with developmental disabilities.
Placement options range from group homes, in which several individuals
with disabilities live together and receive around-the-clock care, to
supervised apartments and supported living programs in which an individual
lives on his or her own and receives training and periodic visits from
support staff. It may also be possible to secure services to allow an
individual to remain in his or her family’s home with supports and services.
Similar to day services, funding for residential placements is also very
limited and therefore is offered based on urgency of one's situation.
Factors that the agencies consider include, but are not limited to, the
age and health of the parents and the severity of the individual's
disability. In both states though, there are long waitlists for such services
--so it is vital that the individual with the disability be placed on
the appropriate waitlist as early as possible.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is available to people whose disabilities
prevent gainful employment, provided countable resources are under $2,000
and monthly income is less than approximately $850. Parental income and
resources are deemed available to children under eighteen living with
their parents. People who qualify for SSI automatically receive Medicaid.
Because the income and resources of parents are counted until the child
turns 18, many people with disabilities fail to qualify for SSI until
then. Income and resources of a sibling are never deemed to a sibling
with disabilities, regardless of his or her age, whether the sibling with
the disability lives with him or her, or whether the non-disabled sibling
has been appointed as guardian of the individual with special needs.
Medicaid is the primary funding source for adult services, so it is important
for individuals with disabilities to qualify for such of they will be
in need of the services described above as an adult.
- To be eligible for Medicaid, an individual must:
- Be determined to be blind or disabled by either the Social Security Administration
or by the Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services;
- Meet the general requirements for New Jersey or Pennsylvania Medicaid -
resident of New Jersey or Pennsylvania;
- Be financially eligible.
As explained in other sections, an individual may not have more than $2000
in resources to be deemed financially eligible to access Medicaid benefits.
Once your child turns 18, the government does not consider parental resources
in determining whether your child is financially eligible for Medicaid benefits.
Special Needs Trusts
Since the services described above are typically needs-based services,
it is vital that parents take steps necessary to ensure their child does
not inherit money or other resources that will deem the child ineligible
for government benefits. Instead of leaving money to the special needs
child outright, parents or other caregivers can establish a Special Needs
Trust to hold the resources for their special needs child. This plan will
enable the child to continue receiving services through SSI and Medicaid,
and have the other resources available to supplement the supports the
government provides. This is an important step in ensuring that your loved
one with special needs is taken care of for as long as they need support
--whether the child with special needs is still a minor or is now an adult.
Contact Freeman Law Offices, LLC today by calling (609) 454-5609 or using the
"Contact Us" form to learn more about how to access services for your loved one with special needs.