Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Who Helps Children with Special Needs and Their Families? State Departments Serving Children

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Family caregivers of children with disabilities may not be aware of the full range of services for children in their state.  Besides non-profit and disability specific organizations such as Parent Training and Information Centers, Family-to-Family Health Information Centers, and Parent-to-Parent support, there are various departments in state government serving children with special needs and their families.  
Department of Children & Families
In some states, families are fortunate to have a department specifically for children.  In these states, most if not all services (usually excluding education) fall under this umbrella organization.  Some of these services are Child Protection, Children’s System of Care (mental health), etc.  The Administration for Children and Families has a section for parents on finding help at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/help-for-parents

Department of Education
The Department of Education is a key resource for families who may have children in special education including those who are included in general education classes.  Many departments have information on education processes and forms such as IEPs (Individual Education Plans), parental rights, policies affecting education, and so on.  A listing of state offices of education and special education is available from the U.S. Department of Education at http://www2.ed.gov/about/contacts/state/index.html
Department of Health

This is another important area for families of children with disabilities and special health care needs.  Here they will find resources on health coverage, disability specific information, evaluation centers, and dental care which is essential for overall health.  A list of state health departments is available from Health Finder at http://healthfinder.gov/FindServices/SearchOrgType.aspx?OrgTypeID=8.  There is also a list of health topics on the homepage for specific conditions.

Department of Human Services
Lastly, Human Services will have links to actual services to children and adults with developmental disabilities, help paying for medical bills, home modification, and transportation.  State Departments of Human Services can also be found on the HealthFinder link above.

There may be other departments in each state helping children and their families.  Not all services are the same in every state.  Parents need to find out what is available in their state and if there are free or low cost services.  Families of children with disabilities can get various services, sometimes free, from the various departments or divisions in their state government.  Parents can help their child with special needs to maximize their potential by accessing these services.  



List of State Government websites

Sample of State Departments with Descriptions-NJ


Remain Hopeful,




Lauren Agoratus is a parent/advocate who works for the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network and serves as the NJ Coordinator for Family Voices (www.spanadvocacy.org), a national network that works to “keep families at the center of children’s healthcare” at www.familyvoices.org or FB www.facebook.com/pages/Family-Voices-Inc-National/137783182902269.  She also serves as NJ representative supporting caregivers across the lifespan for the Caregiver Action Network (formerly National Family Caregivers Association) in a volunteer capacity at http://caregiveraction.org/ or FB www.facebook.com/CaregiverActionNetwork.