Financial resources for traumatized children are available for those who are eligible. Traumatized children, no matter what their trauma’s origin, may suffer the effects of their experience throughout childhood and across their lifespan. Some of the issues may be annoyances that they can accommodate, while others may be so debilitating that they interfere with education, socialization, relationships, emotional self-regulation, and work. Children who have experienced trauma respond in their own unique ways. No child who experiences significant trauma escapes without some scars. No matter how severe, or chronic, or rare their trauma is, its consequences may require years of attention before traumatized children and/or later in their adulthood, can lead a fully functional existence. However, there are two significant problems that stand between trauma victims and recovery: (1) skilled professionals who can provide the necessary care and support to help the victims overcome their traumatic experience; and (2) the money to pay for this care. This article primarily addresses the money to pay for this care. It also touches upon problems surrounding finding appropriate treatment resources.
Children Exposed to Trauma
Children are exposed to traumatic experiences, major and minor, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or socio-economic status. Trauma affecting children associated with natural disasters and crime as well as terrorism is reported with increased frequency. Traumatized children who survive hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, floods, mudslides, avalanches, and blizzards as well as acts of deliberate and accidental violence, may suffer long-term psychological, physical, and developmental injuries. The trauma experience may be worsened by the loss of family members, particularly caregivers, or even the family home, robbing them of stability and continuity of care while they are at their most vulnerable.
Trauma specialists who treat physical injuries are readily available and their services may be funded through a variety of sources including private health insurance, Medicaid, Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), state funding, and charitable organizations. Victims of crimes may receive limited funding through crime victim’s compensation programs available in all 50 states. The psychological and emotional ramifications of trauma may be more elusive, hidden to emerge later, masked as physical or behavioral symptoms. It could also lead to self-medicating with illicit drugs or alcohol, or other addictive behaviors thus complicating and enhancing the effect of the trauma on the victim’s life.
Traumatized children may have physical injuries that may interfere with the child’s normal development. Such injuries may pose significant physical limitations to the child’s ability stand, walk, manipulate, see, hear, or speak unassisted. They may experience chronic pain and require lifelong treatment. The treatment could include medication, surgeries, hospitalizations, home care, and medical devices. The medical devices could include wheelchairs, prosthetics, and other equipment that must be frequently replaced or modified to accommodate the growing child. Psychologically, child victims may exhibit depression, grief, hopelessness, helplessness, guilt, and shame. An host of conflicting feelings could follow and manifest as pain, gastrointestinal disorders, eating and sleeping disorders, fears, obsessive compulsivity, dependency, difficulty relating to others, social isolation, regressed behaviors, concentration problems, aggression, addictions, and socially inappropriate behaviors.
Psychological and Medical Treatment
Of particular concern is how specialized psychological and medical treatment can be funded. Consider funding these in the immediate aftermath of the trauma and over the lifespan as symptoms emerge. Such symptoms can transform and become problematic to the victim’s ability to go to school, work, integrate with society, develop healthy relationships, and become fully functional. Even children from financially well-off families require years of treatment for the consequences of their traumatic experience that may exhaust their family’s resources.
There are two programs available to child trauma victims through the Social Security Administration. These two programs should be noted by clinicians, counselors, social workers, schools, and others who may be involved in the aftermath of a traumatic event that may have a negative effect on a child’s life. These programs are appropriate for individuals who meet Social Security’s criteria for disability. The criteria is a medical or mental condition that is so severe it precludes the individual from engaging in full-time work within a competitive work setting on a sustained basis without the need for accommodations such as schedule flexibility, reduced quotas, increased rest breaks or other considerations not extended to other employees. For children, the definition is modified to address the child’s ability to meet developmental milestones and perform at grade level in school without requiring special accommodations such as special education.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
The first program under Social Security is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This program can provide money benefits to help fund treatment not covered by health insurance. Treatments it can cover are such as medication, transportation, certain medical devices, home care, tutoring, institutionalization. This program is dependent on family income as well as the severity of the child’s medical and/or psychological impairment. Several states supplement the amount of the benefit. Furthermore, Medicaid is provided to SSI recipients, although Medicaid can also benefit individuals who do not meet the criteria for SSI. Unfortunately, while most hospitals and facilities such as nursing homes accept Medicaid, many clinicians do not accept it, particularly specialists. In such situations, traumatized children suffer even more without receiving the help they need and deserve.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
The other program for consideration is Child Benefits under Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Typically, individuals contribute to Social Security for retirement and disability benefits through their earnings from work. Younger individuals who are deemed disabled and who have been able to work. However, if a traumatized child exhibits severe physical or mental limitations secondary to the trauma experience that significantly interferes with his or her ability to go to school or sustain full-time employment, he or she may be able to obtain money benefits and Medicare health insurance through the earnings record of a parent. This insures the adult child will be able to survive with a monthly income and health insurance if he or she is never able to contribute to Social Security through their own work. To be eligible, the adult child must demonstrate that the disabling condition began before his or her 22nd birthday and that individual must never have married. When the individual’s parent reaches retirement age or dies, the adult child can receive a portion of the parent’s Social Security benefit unless the child marries or recovers sufficiently to join or rejoin the workforce.
Substantiated Trauma Treatment Records
The medical and psychological consequences of the child’s trauma must be substantiated through treatment records, school records (where applicable), and opinions by treating clinicians who can attest to the physical and mental limitations resulting from the child’s medical or psychological diagnoses. There is no need for a causal relationship between the trauma and the diagnosis. Although some conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder are, by definition, the consequence of trauma. It may benefit the child to apply for SSDI or SSI under his or her own earnings record when appropriate. This application process should help preserve the record for any applications for child benefits in the future when the parent reaches retirement age or dies.
Child Trauma Victims
Victims of trauma experience a variety of reactions depending on the trauma itself, the way the trauma was perceived by the victim, the extent of physical injury experienced or witnessed, whether the trauma was subsequent to a natural disaster, war, or crime, and if a crime, whether the trauma was perpetrated by a stranger or a friend or family member. Child trauma victims may experience more complex, sustained, and persistent negative effects from trauma. They are still growing and developing. Traumatic experiences may have occurred before the child has the language or knowledge to process the event. Traumatized children may not be able to differentiate between real and imagined elements of trauma. They also maybe unable to process the events because their recollections are inconsistent with reality. Traumatized children may not remember chronologically, so events may appear more chaotic and confused. Should children be traumatized by a trusted family member, friend or caregiver, the added element of betrayal may interfere with the child’s ability to form healthy relationships. It is imperative that child victims of trauma receive immediate medical and psychological interventions. They should also be reassessed over time and throughout their childhood and early adulthood. These long-term interventions will require adequate funding. Such funding may be provided by Social Security when victims are eligible.
I cannot thank you enough for reading this information. Our patrons and many others sincerely want every child to receive the help they need. Please do all you can to help all children in need.
Member of the Board of Directors
Hope For Children Foundation