Life can be more difficult for a child with a birth injury, especially if the injury leads to long-term disabilities. However, there are government services and programs designed to help families and ensure that special needs children receive assistance with medical, financial and educational care. Below, we discuss some of the government services that may be available to your family.
Medical Government Services
Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are federal insurance programs that offer insurance to children whose parents or guardians meet income guidelines. These income guidelines vary from state to state, but they are almost always reasonable. These programs apply to all children who meet the eligibility requirements, regardless if they have disabilities or not.
In addition, since physicians recognize the first three years of life as the most influential medically, Early Intervention Programs exist for children from birth to age three. Some birth injuries require regular visits to your doctor and these programs help families who may not have the means to pay out of pocket.
For more information on Medicaid and CHIP, including eligibility requirements, contact your local health department.
Social Security Benefits
According to the Social Security Administration, children with disabilities can apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), as long as they meet eligibility requirements. SSI provides monthly benefit payments aimed at helping parents financially as they care for a child with disabilities. Generally, SSI provides payments for disabilities such as:
- Cerebral palsy
- Total blindness and/or deafness
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Down’s Syndrome
- Serious intellectual disorders (this applies to children over 7 years of age)
- Low birth weight (Under 2 pounds, 10 ounces)
In order to qualify for SSI, the disability must be disabling and have a prognosis of lasting at least one year, or until death. Furthermore, the disability must be a physical or mental disorder, or a combination of both, that includes severe limitations. One important thing to consider is the life expectancy of certain medical disorders. Cerebral palsy life expectancy, for example, varies greatly based on the individual’s overall health. More severe injuries that are not easily treated may have a different life expectancy.
Educational Government Services
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that all states provide state-paid special education services to children with disabilities. There are currently more than 6 million disabled children who receive special education services via IDEA, with customized, individual learning plans called IEPs.
In order to qualify for educational government services, the child must have at least one of the following:
- An intellectual disability
- Visual impairment
- Severe emotional and/or behavioral disturbances
- Hearing impairment
- Speech and/or language impairments
- Traumatic brain injury
- Specific learning disabilities
- Health impairments
- Orthopedic impairments
In addition, children with disabilities may also receive additional services, such as transportation to and from school, counseling, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language pathology. The best way to find out what services are available at your local schools is to contact them directly.
Some school systems have schools that specialize in certain special needs areas, such as autism or visual impairments. In these schools, classrooms are dedicated to meeting the needs of these students, recognizing that the needs of a child with autism, for example, are different from those of a child with a visual impairment.