When Your Child Ages Out

January 22, 2013

When your child ages out of the public school system at age 21, your child will enter the world of adult services. Examples of these services are group homes, independent living with support, rehabilitation day programs, residential habilitation programs, respite and a variety of other services. It is therefore imperative that you understand the difference between eligibility and entitlement.

While your child is in the public school system, your child is entitled to certain rights and services. You and your child’s public school may differ as to precisely what your child is entitled to, but once agreed-upon, your child receives those services.

In the world of adult services, however, the question is more of eligibility. For instance, your child must first prove that he or she meets the eligibility requirements for certain government programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. If your child meets all of the eligibility requirements for these programs, your child will be entitled to certain associated benefits which will make him or her “eligible” for adult services.

Let’s assume that it is determined that your child is entitled to Medicaid benefits. He or she may now be eligible for most of the adult services available in New York State. Being eligible, however, is a far cry from being entitled to those services. For example, your child may very well be eligible for a group home placement, but the chances of him or her actually being awarded such a placement is almost nonexistent.  Why?  The reason is that there are approximately 10,000 disabled individuals in New York State currently waiting for a similar placement.  All of these individuals are eligible for group home placement, but none of them are entitled to it. See the difference? And so it goes with nearly all of the adult services.

In light of the federal debt and New York State’s fiscal crisis, Medicaid is almost certainly to be under continued attack for the foreseeable future. This translates to proposed cuts in Medicaid services for the cognitively impaired and developmentally disabled population.

I will provide insight into both hard and soft trends regarding adult services in upcoming blogs. I will also discuss the People First Waiver which is being implemented in New York and how it will change the landscape of services available for your child.  For now, I believe it is safe to say that parents who have a disabled child will bear a greater financial and emotional burden going forward then perhaps ever before. It is therefore imperative that parents begin to plan earlier than ever before.