Caring for a special needs child can be rough. Not only are there medical and educational issues to consider, but financial matters can be a huge challenge, particularly if the child’s caregiver dies.
Since advances in medicine have extended the lifespans of many of the disabled, making it ever more likely that a caregiving parent may no longer outlive her child (life expectancy for those with Down syndrome was formerly only 18–20 years; now they may live into their 70s and even 80s), it is more likely that the child will run into financial or other difficulties, some foreseen, some not. And the actions of financial professionals who are not knowledgeable about the special circumstances that govern the care of a special needs individual or, worse, who are only out to sell products, can cause problems that are completely avoidable.
There’s a new certification, however, that seeks to make the financial aspect of caring for a person with disabilities not just easier, but more reliable. The Chartered Special Needs Consultant (CSNC) is a new designation developed by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and The American College, and has been devised to help financial services professionals better prepare themselves to assist their clients in planning for special needs children—and to give parents and caregivers a reliable source to turn to for financial advice in those situations.
MassMutual has already devoted considerable time and attention to its SpecialCare program, aimed at families with special needs children and their unique life care planning needs.
“What we’re discovering,” says Joanne Gruszkos, director for the SpecialCare program and its founder, “is that since the special needs community and the press have picked up on autism and a variety of other things, it’s become a hot item. A lot of people are looking to help families, and unfortunately many [of the families are] getting exploited.”
The new special designation is one way to avoid this, she says.