Applying for grants for a child with special needs
January 3, 2015 7:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm applying for grants to help my child who has special needs. Does anyone know what is typical to expect?

I'm a single parent and primary caregiver. I have two kids with special needs and I have my own medical problems. Things have been at a crisis level all fall. Doctors now say that my child needs interventions not covered by Canadian health care and that my child needs to go to private school. My other child also has medical problems and needs some interventions also not covered by Canadian health care. And I'm paying out of pocket for my own therapy (with no desire to change) and could really sometimes use more visits to things like physiotherapy or even a personal trainer (for active rehab).

I am unsure how to go about applying. I have a list of places to which I can apply for funding. But I don't know if "family" means just me and my kids or if I'm supposed to include my former spouse. I also don't know if household expenses is supposed to include my medical expenses and those for the other child.

More importantly, I don't know how much these charities usually fund or who they usually help. We are facing medical and educational costs that could be as much as $40k a year, but we might be able to get by at around $30k. (This isn't including my costs.) Do these charities usually fund like $1,500 or would they all go together and maybe chip in more? I have no idea what to expect.

And I'm not sure if I should dredge up every single thing for which we need assistance. (I don't mean that in a scammy way. But if we need speech therapy and a psych ed later in the year, should I be including that if, right now, we need other treatments and educational services? Should I be asking for stuff like respite for myself?)

I know I can call the charities. But I don't want to come across as trying to scam and I don't want them to start thinking I'm already above their income threshold or anything like that. I would prefer to have some background info before I venture into things. I've tried asking on various forums before, but they are dominated by parents with ASD children, who are able to access a great deal of government funding that is not available to many children with special needs.

My hope in posting here is that someone might be able to share their knowledge of the process in Canada. Our care team tells me that our situation is highly unusual in multiple ways and that I will need to get that across, so that people understand that it is life threatening for our children not to obtain these services, even though they are not life sustaining therapies.

I also wonder if I should be putting in grant applications for each kid or just start with the one who is most at risk.

Some of the private schools say they also provide financial assistance. I wasn't sure what they might provide and it looks like you have to go through a long process to even find that out. I might look at some of the more expensive schools if I knew there was assistance, but maybe it's only like $2k and I'd be better applying to a school that costs $15k less. But if they might have a $15k funding program, I'd go there. It's overwhelming.

Tl;dr - I'm looking for info about what charities look at when assessing applications for funding for special needs children who need private school and medical interventions, and I'm wondering how this works for a single parent whose kids' dad is still involved. I wonder about realistic expectations. I will be calling the charities but any experience and info you can share will help - I am trying to avoid prejudicing the process. Thanks.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats to Health & Fitness (2 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I am in Canada, and have been deeply involved with funding issues for special needs children for many years, both personally and formerly professionally. Despite your fear of prejudicing the process, you need to contact the charities, both on a local (think service club level) and provincial/federal level and explain your situation. Many charities have very strict criteria, which are not flexible (ie: your child must have a diagnosis of XYZ Syndrome), whereas many have flexible or open criteria, and they can tell you if you are wasting precious time and energy to apply. You ask about criteria as a single parent; your child support income will count as your income, but beyond that, typically the other parents income is not counted if you are legally divorced, as you have no mechanism to force that parent to pay more, short of returning to court. Household expenses typically include medical costs for all members (in this case you and your children), but each charity will have a specific breakdown of what they ask for and consider an expense vs an elective cost. It is not uncommon for a family to have multiple children with the same diagnosis (or entirely different ones for that matter), so your situation of multiple children with high needs will not be new to many groups.

In terms of the private school situation, depending on where you live, your local school board may actually be a source of assistance as well. If your medical professionals are insisting on private school, it is possible that the local school board may elect to fund your childs placement and pay for it, rather than try and meet your childs needs inside of their system. This may turn out to be an amicable process with the school board, or, sadly, a legally driven nonn amicable one. The private schools themselves are usually a great source of information on funding sources, as I guarantee you will not be the first parent they have encountered with financial questions regarding private education. It is unusual for a charity in Canada to entirely fund a child's attendance at a private school, but not unheard of for schools to have fully sponsored places for children. I would approach the school or schools which you think would be the best fit for your child and then work with them to try and make it work financially. Most private schools have a 'finance counsellor' or similar roled person who, if you can speak with them, can provide you with a much more realistic picture of their assistance program than a website will do.

But, to be honest, realistically, you are going to have a heck of a time reaching charitable donations of 30k a year, even more so on a sustainable basis. This is a huge number for a charity to support, and you may do best to concentrate your efforts on potential funding sources which have deep pockets.

Feel free to drop me a line via PM, and of course, good luck with this process!
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 9:16 PM on January 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Here in the state of Iowa, USA, we are phasing in a system of care coordinators for adults and children with special needs so that the person needing care (or adult responsible for that person) has one point person to contact, and then that care coordinator takes care of making those 8 million phone calls, tapping resources, etc. on behalf of the person with special needs. Is there anything similar to this in Canada that you might be able to access? You say you have a care team--is there anyone on that care team that fills this role for you? As someone who works with families who have children with various special needs, I know that it's plenty hard for families to identify all the services their kiddos need at times--tracking down those services and figuring out how to pay for them is a full-time job at least. Here's hoping you can get some support from the people already in place to help you.
posted by epj at 11:19 AM on January 5, 2015

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