Little girl in a wheelchair with a big smile

As part of our mission and vision, United Rehabilitation Services, (URS) regularly advocates for the children and adults we serve and their families.  We were very pleased to learn that in part due to our recent efforts to raise awareness for the people we serve, more families of children with special needs will qualify for additional support in securing quality childcare in Ohio. In fact, Kara B. Wente, Assistant Director, Health & Human Services, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services praised the advocacy efforts of URS Executive Director Dennis Grant. “I had the opportunity to meet Dennis and tour their impressive facility with my team. That visit had a lasting impact on me,” said Kara. “Governor DeWine is listening, and his executive budget will expand publicly funded childcare, and if approved in the House and Senate, eligibility will increase from 130% Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to 150% FPL for special needs children/families.” she added.

We are proud to have contributed to increasing access to childcare subsidies in support of families who have children with special needs.  This should also create additional opportunities for inclusion as more childcare providers will also be able to apply to receive a “special needs waiver” accelerated payment rate which can be anywhere from 5% to 100% higher based on the level of additional staff “services, adaptations, modifications or adjustments to assist in a child’s functioning or development.”  This applies when serving children who have chronic health conditions or do not meet age-appropriate expectations in one or more areas of development.  For childcare providers, being able to be compensated for the higher level of care some children with special needs require will encourage them to open the door to a more inclusive experience for all children.

It is critical that we continue to press forward on this issue.  According to Assistant Director Kara Wente, more than 500 children and their caregivers throughout Ohio are currently benefitting from this program.  Although this is very positive, we must keep in mind that statistically, in 2019, over 290,000 children under the age of five were in childcare settings.  If you apply the 2019 Center for Disease Control (CDC) statement that 17.8% of children have a disability, well over 50,000 of those children might require additional assistance to be successful.  Currently the program only applies to children whose families qualify for the Job and Family Services Publicly Funded Child Care subsidies.  However, to encourage childcare providers to accept children of all abilities, we need this program to be expanded to all children and their families.  Our work is not done!