Grand Resources: A Grandparent’s and Other Relative’s Guide to Raising Children with Disabilities

The guide seeks to answer some of the most often asked questions from grandfamilies who have children with disabilities.

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Are you a grandparent or other relative raising another family
member’s child? You are not alone. Grandfamilies – or
extended family members and close family friends and the
children they raise – are growing in numbers. More than
2.7 million children are being raised in grandfamilies without
any parents in the home. Although we don’t know how
many, we believe many of the children in grandfamilies
have disabilities or special needs. Often they may have disabilities
because of the situations that led to them being
cared for in a grandfamily. Some of them may develop disabilities
if they do not receive services to help them while
they are young.

The guide seeks to answer some of the most often asked questions from grandfamilies like
yours who have children with disabilities. When answering, we will give basic information
about the major programs that can help you and your family. For example, as a first step, you
may want the child evaluated to learn more about their physical or mental health challenges
so you can get help. This guide will explain that process. The guide also goes over questions
concerning monthly cash payments, health insurance, and other public services that may be
available to help you and the child you’re raising. For example, we’ll explore how to get early
intervention services for children birth to age 3, and preschool and special education and related
services for older children. This guide also has a resource section that tells you where
you can go to find more information and get help.

Each of the programs mentioned in this guide has rules to identify which children and families
can get help. The rules often vary depending on where you live. So, you must always check
the program rules in your area. Some program rules are based on the kind of disability the
child has. Others are based on how much money your family has. Virtually none of the programs
require that you have legal custody, guardianship or have adopted the child; the guide
will tell you if any of those legal relationships are necessary for a particular program. That’s
not to say that you won’t have to prove through documents like birth certificates and income
tax returns that you are raising the child full-time and/or are related in some way to the child.
Most ofthe programs will help you if you are related in any way by blood, marriage or adoption
to the child. For that reason, we answer questions from many kinds of relatives, but know
that the answer also usually applies to you if you are related in any way. Many of the programs
will also help you if you’re a godparent or close family friend raising the child. If this is you,
ask if the program includes you. Whether you’re included may depend on how “relative” is defined
for a particular program.

It is probably going to take a lot of time and effort to apply for some of the programs in this
guide. We think you’ll find the effort to be worth it. You should get some much deserved supportto
help you meetthe needs ofthe grandchild, niece, nephew, sibling or other family member
who you’re raising