Hundreds Of Thousands Of Children With Disabilities Languish On Waiting Lists For Crucial Services

( – Approximately 17% of children between the ages of 3 and 17 have a developmental disability that requires an additional degree of care. To obtain special services covered by the state, they often have to get on a waiting list. Even so, it could be years before their name is called.

The special services children and young adults require as they age often include day programs, home care, and employment assistance. The idea is to help them cope in the real world and gain some sense of independence, though the degree of independence varies depending on the individual and their disability. Parents hope to get their children the care, so they can thrive and have a community to fall back on when the adults in their lives pass away.

A KFF survey carried out in November 2023 revealed that there are nearly 700,000 people across the country waiting for these services in 38 states. One of the contributing factors, according to the health policy research company, is a shortage of home care workers, which can add to the lengthy waiting times. Some states also have enrollment limits, which they enact when demand surpasses capability. Then, there’s the matter of funding. Other states just don’t have enough funds to provide for all of those who need care.

Then, there’s the issue of younger children. Parents of toddlers with developmental delays have been waitlisted for services, which only exacerbates the issue. They also need to plan for the years ahead, especially considering some waitlist times extend for several years. Getting on the waitlist at a young age can help them get into programs as they age into their young adult and adult years.

One of the concerning factors is that the federal government doesn’t have any provisions in place to mandate states offer these services. The states rely on their own budgets to provide care, and if it gets cut, so do the services.

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