If your young adult with a disability will be continuing on with their education or vocational training in such a way that they will be able to be gainfully employed and fairly independent then the following information may not apply to your situation or be of use to you at a later point and time. If your young adult child will need more in-depth support and assistance, however, the following information may be helpful.
Legally, your child is now an adult and if you haven’t already planned for your young adult’s future now is the time to be thinking about your child’s adult future. Due to advances in medical care and education individuals with developmental disabilities are likely to outlive their parents. Because of this reality it is so important for you to “plan for the worst and hope for the best.”
Some of the things you will want to work on will be the Who, What, Where, and How to make the best plan possible for your loved one and their future.
- WHO – If your adult loved one has a developmental disability careful consideration needs to be given as to who will care for and be responsible for your adult child after you are not able to care for them. Remember, when your child turns 18 years old then legally they are not a child any more. When a young adult child is developmentally disabled and over the age of 18, or is about to turn 18, there are issues regarding guardianship over your child that you should be aware of. Determining if you should seek a Guardianship or Guardian Advocacy is an important decision that will need the expertise of an Elder Law Attorney. Visit our resource guide to see the list of experienced Elder Law Attorneys who can assist you with the process. Also, the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council offers a comprehensive information book entitled Lightning the Way to Guardianship and Other Decision-Making Alternatives. If guardianship is established you will want to ensure that your adult child with a disability is always being cared for by the individual or individuals that you chose. The way that you ensure this happens is by making sure you have a current will in place. As part of your will you will also want to include the establishment of a Special Needs Trust. A Special Needs Trusts can provide benefits to, and protect assets of, an individual with a developmental disability. Special Needs Trusts are frequently used to receive an inheritance on behalf of an individual with a disability and should be established so that other benefits that may be provided, such as certain assistance programs, will not be in jeopardy of being reduced or taken away.
- WHAT – If your adult loved one has completed their public school education then figuring out what they will being doing during their day is critical. Will they be going to college, vocational school, or need some other type of service. Utilizing the services of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) can help you get started. Also, there are several agencies in our community that work with adults with disabilities that can provide a variety of services from job coaching to a day program. See our resource section for a list of these agencies. Don’t forget that your young adult child should have some fun recreational activities “built” into his or her life. Such activities will help to ensure their happiness and physical wellbeing. Finally, start exploring volunteer opportunities for your child to become involved in. If you child has a love for animals have them try volunteering at an animal shelter or Southeast Guide Dogs or if your child has a love of books have them volunteer at the library. Volunteering in our community can open up a wide variety of future and possible job opportunities for your child.
- WHERE – Another important issue or concern to consider is where your adult child will live? While your adult with a disability is young and you are in good health it may be very appropriate for them to continue to live with you, but at some point in time you may have to consider a different kind of living arrangement. Some options to consider for housing or living arrangements could be independent living with or without supports, finding a roommate or roommates with supports, another family member such as a sibling, or a residential placement. Residential placement can offer individuals needed social stimulation with like peers and opportunities for continued growth and development to help your adult child live his or her life to the fullest.
- HOW – You may be wondering how will your adult child with a disability be able to afford the things that they may need, especially if they are unable to work full time? All disabled children turning age 18 can apply or reapply for the Supplemental Security Income. The SSI program pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources. Because your young adult with a disability is now 18 years old the SSI Department will look at their income as one of the qualifying factors. If they have no income or little income and meet the criteria for being considered disabled they should qualify for this financial assistance. The amount of financial assistance they can receive will vary based on certain factors. Children under 18 have a harder time qualifying because the SSI Department looks at the family’s income because they are a minor child receiving support from their parents. To learn more about this benefit and the process click here.You must call the local SSI Department and schedule an appointment to complete the enrollment process. You will want to make sure you have all of your information, both medical and educational, that shows your young adult has a disability. Also when making your appointment with the SSI Department to complete the enrollment process make sure that you wait for one full month after your child turns 18. Some families have had difficulty with the SSI Department and the amount their loved one received because there was confusion on income. Waiting a full month after your loved one turns 18 seems to help with this problem. If your loved one qualifies, the SSI Department back pays the SSI benefit to your loved ones 18th birth date. Another form of financial support for your loved one can be the Medwaiver, through the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). If you have applied and are still on the waiting list now may be the time to discuss applying for assistance under a crisis situation, if that is necessary and appropriate for your loved ones situation. Applying for a Crisis Situation is not easy and it takes time… so be prepared.Looking at long term plans you will want to find a financial adviser that is very well diverse in the creation and administration of a Special Needs Trust for your loved one. A special needs trust, when funded, can be used to provide for your loved one the items, services, and supports that are not covered by other state or government programs without jeopardizing the funding your loved one receives from those programs. Don’t think that because you may not have any money or assets right now that there is not a way to fund a special needs trust. This is where an experienced special needs trust adviser can be invaluable.