LGBTQ people are more likely to adopt older children and children with special needs, who are statistically less likely to be adopted—perhaps because many LGBTQ parents can empathize with the stigmatization such children may experience.1
Many people think of ‘special needs planning’ as the financial and legal work to care for someone who will need those funds to live. There’s so much more to it. There are as many types of special needs as there are people. Special needs planning must focus that person as an individual, and as a whole person: what are their likes and dislikes? How do they live and what are their routines? What’s important to them?
Many parents are unsure of where to start. Will their child be able to work? Will they require full-time care? Where will they live? What sort of social life are they likely to want? There are so many questions to discuss so we can plan for what will be covered by public programs and what must be paid for with private funds. An attorney can explain how a special needs trust (SNT) and/or ABLE account can be used to pay expenses without jeopardizing eligibility for important means-tested government programs. When it comes to funding sources, such as insurance, investments, and bequests, we can work together to determine the best way to accumulate the necessary assets.
An often-forgotten aspect of special needs planning is the caregiver. Being a caregiver often requires the person to be employed only part-time or not at all, and that person may not have the same availability of retirement plans as someone who is employed full-time.
Because so many are unsure of where to start, this planning is often put off. A sudden and abrupt change, such as moving into a new living arrangement, can be very disruptive to someone who finds great comfort in a routine. With careful planning, that change can be gradual to help ease the person into a new routine and the parents and family can have comfort knowing that it won’t be as traumatic as it might otherwise be.
1Brodzinsky and Donaldson, “Expanding Resources for Children III”; U.S. Administration for Children and Families Children’s Bureau, The AFCARS Report: Preliminary FY 2017 Estimates as of August 10, 2018 – No. 25. See also Jaymie Lorthridge and others, “Strengthening Family Connections and Support for Youth in Foster Care who Identify as LGBTQ: Findings from the PII-RISE Evaluation,” Child Welfare 96 (1) (2018): 53, 55.)