Making Ends Meet when Raising a Disabled Child


Caring for a disabled child involves extra costs, both visible and hidden, that might open the door wide to a lifetime of struggle if you don’t play your cards right. Fortunately, there are ways of mending your family finances if they have taken a big hit such as severe disability in the family.

The Disability-Poverty Link

Serious disability and poverty are closely interlinked as special needs children are more likely to be born to low-income or single-income families. Disabilities also occur in children in single-parent households more frequently, which can impact family finances significantly.

In the U.S., of the 72 million+ families, more than 20 million have at least one disabled family member. Around 12 million American families include a member with physical disability while over 7 million families struggle with mental disability.

The South has the highest rates of disability (30%) and rural families are more likely to face disability than urban families (30.1% vs 28.5%). According to the latest census data, families with disabled members also have lower income than families with healthy members ($39,155 vs. $54,515.)

Families facing disability are also more likely to slide into poverty and to need access to Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, and various welfare programs from state and local governments.

Raising a disabled child involves many unforeseen costs and oftentimes a reduction in family income. Some of these costs include:

  • Specialized health care (therapy, OTC medication, doctor appointments especially if caregivers are underinsured)
  • Special equipment/ bedding/ clothing (like assistive devices, communication equipment, diapers, toys, specialized car seats, specialized food, etc.)
  • Special needs education
  • Extra costs, such as home and car modifications to accommodate the needs of the disabled child, higher utility bills, gas, specialty items, and paid caregivers.
  • Reduced income: One parent may have to give up his or her job or take up part time work to have enough time and energy to care for the child.

Making Ends Meet

Raising a child with severe disability already feels like a full-time position to many parents. More than 90% of caregivers of a child with disability revealed that they wanted to work but they couldn’t do it due to time constraints or lack of access to quality childcare.

And to add insult to injury, very few businesses are willing to offer flexible hours to their employees juggling full-time work while caring for a disabled child. So, when looking for additional income sources as a busy parent to a special needs child, the best route to go is self-employment.

Job Opportunities for Parents of Children with Disabilities

Working from home can save you time and money while allowing you to earn the needed cash to take off the strain on the family budget. Some of the most common opportunities for busy parents with disabled children include:

  • Blogging
  • Freelance writing
  • Customer service (big companies outsource their customer service operations)
  • Online tutoring
  • Grocery shopping or running errands for an elderly person or busy family
  • Taking care of a disabled senior
  • Baby sitting
  • Reselling thrift store merchandise
  • Fixing stuff
  • Cooking healthy meals and selling them online or to close friends and neighbors
  • Dog walking.

Government Programs

There are countless government programs you can tap when caring for a child with disability. Some of them include:

  • Social Security Disability Benefits (for children with disability under the age 18)
  • Social Security Disabled Adult Child (DAC) – for disabled adults
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) aka food stamps – for both low-income children and adults, regardless of disability status
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) – for low-income households with or without disabled children until they find work
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – for children meeting the SSI disability standard who are being raised by a low-income family (income and asset limits may apply.)

Getting the Ones Liable Shoulder the Costs

Sometimes a child’s disability is the result of gross negligence coming from a third party, such as a reckless driver, negligent caregiver, or incompetent health care professional. Medical error is a common cause of spinal injuries and crippling lifelong disability such as cerebral palsy that might up the cost of care to six- or seven-digit sums.

Fortunately, you can make those responsible for your child’s disability pay. For instance, personal injury lawyers help families affected by cerebral palsy get justice and recover due compensation to cover the mounting medical bills, therapy costs, and other out-of-pocket expenses spurred by such a devastating diagnosis.

To Wrap It Up

Raising a child with (severe) disability incurs many additional costs that can quickly add up and push the entire family into poverty. Hopefully, there are multiple ways to prevent that and get access to much-needed extra income even if you are a busy parent of a severely disabled child.

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