Someone once said to me in a conversation about the high cost of college tuition, “You’re lucky. You’re only putting three of your four kids through college. That’s a nice savings.” Savings? Are you kidding me?
College costs are a drop in the ocean compared with the expense of raising a child with disabilities. Paying for special needs takes a hefty chunk – more than a million dollars – out of the family budget.
To raise a typical child to the age of 18, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, costs $245,000. Add college tuition to that figure, and there’s no denying that kids of all kind are wealth suckers.
But when disabilities enter the equation, the costs never end. They keep on going. And going. And going.
Autism Speaks estimates lifetime costs at $1.4 million for someone with autism. Add in intellectual disabilities, because dual diagnoses are common, and the total jumps to upwards of $2.3 million. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, lifetime costs can range from $3.5 million to $5 million.
While estimates vary, the bottom line doesn’t: The expense for families is enormous and far beyond the means of most.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a Social Security benefit for people with disabilities, can provide a modest monthly stipend for basic necessities. It helps a little, thank you very much.
Closer to home, however, it’s difficult for families to get aid. A new Ohio study released this month finds that more than 45,000 in my state are on waiting lists for financial assistance, and the list grows by 100 to 200 individuals each month.
In Cleveland, the situation is worse. Financial assistance goes only to individuals on the waiting list who find themselves in a state of emergency. So unless something catastrophic happens, we spend a lifetime on a waiting list, waiting for a catastrophe.
How can that be? For in our county alone, voters invariably pass a local levy that brings in some $100 million annually for the developmentally disabled, a soft spot in our community.
Guess how much goes to pay for salaries and benefits of able employees at the county board? Nearly all.
That financial reality leaves parents like us wondering if retirement will be a possibility in our future.