How to Become a Paid Caregiver for a Child with Medical or Special Needs

Special Needs Children and Paid Caregivers

“Taking care of kids is like a walk in the park. Jurassic Park.” – Unknown

Any parent, stepparent, or caregiver will tell you: providing care to children comes with seemingly endless worries, concerns, and challenges. It can be emotionally, physically, and financially draining. Providing care to a child with special needs, a disability or a medical condition is all of those things. Extra vigilance, expensive equipment, and increased physical demands may all be necessary to care for a child with medical or other special needs. And, just like parenting in the best of circumstances, it is a labor of love without financial compensation. Or is it?

If you provide care to a child or children whose needs are above and beyond the norm, it’s important to know that you are not alone and that there are resources available to aid caregivers who feel like they are drowning in bills, tasks, and stress. You may even be eligible to receive some level of monetary compensation.

MedicAlert Foundation’s mission is to “protect and save lives.” However, we are also dedicated to improving quality of life. This is true for caregivers and care recipients of all ages who are managing chronic health conditions. MedicAlert’s protection plans can be one tool in the caregiving kit for children with special/medical needs. We’ll guide you toward further resources to determine if you could receive compensation for the time you provide as caregiver. 

What type of caregiving benefits are available?

Although there are currently more types of benefits available for family members providing care to seniors than there are for caregivers of special needs children, it is becoming more widely recognized by government and other agencies that these caregivers also devote significant amounts of time and financial resources, and deserve compensation.

The programs that do exist for child caregivers are widely spread across geographic areas and may be specific to certain conditions, such as autism spectrum disorders. Program specifics differ depending on factors such as state of residence, Medicaid eligibility, parental military veteran status, and the type and level of the child’s disability. Here is an overview of the different types of caregiving benefits and resources available to you. In addition to information about caring for your child, it also includes resources to help care for yourself and alleviate the stress of your role as caregiver.

How can I find local resources and caregiving benefits?

Trying to find the right resources can be challenging, especially if you are new to being a caregiver or new to living in an area. In addition to your caregiving role, it requires time and energy devoted to researching your options. Rigid criteria and documentation requirements can become barriers to you getting compensation and your child or loved one from getting into a program. While wanting to know how you can become a paid caregiver is a potentially life-changing question, the answer isn’t as clear cut, but there are helpful resources to narrow your search.

The Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) lists practical steps to consider when beginning your search for caregiving aid and resources. You’ll learn which states’ Medicaid program pays family members to provide care. Likewise, you’ll be able to see the federally supported programs in place to help alleviate financial burdens and provide various types of support to you.

FCA also provides a Service by State tool to find state specific programs. Under “caregiver compensation” they’ve also provided agencies that will potentially allow your child or family member to officially hire you to care for them. Take a short assessment via the Paid Caregiver Program Locator to identify services that are relevant to your family’s situation.

Although they may seem difficult to find, local resources do exist to connect your family to a helpful and trustworthy organization. Several states have begun to offer new ways to support families who need habilitation and attendant are services for their child.  In certain cases, if you aren’t able to procure enough help from other providers, you can now be paid to provide those services yourself as Temporary Direct Care Workers for your own children. This option was introduced several years ago to give parents (or guardians) another way to ensure that their child could continue to receive care services without having outside providers come into the home during COVID. Recognizing that parents cannot maintain outside employment while providing the level of services required for their child, these programs allow parents/guardians to be paid for providing these services.

The care that you provide for your child goes far above and beyond what most parents already think is exhausting, so don’t feel that you have to do it alone. Seek out programs that exist to support you, your child, and your family in your challenging role. Explore your options based on your unique situation, ask questions, and know that you are your child’s best advocate. Caregiving is important, it’s challenging, but you are helping prepare your child to thrive despite their medical or special needs.