Ages 15-21
AGES 15-21

High school and preparing for adulthood.

Now is the time to plan for your child’s transition from adolescence to adult life. Shift your focus to helping them achieve the greatest possible level of independence. Be sure to check into all educational opportunities for vocational exploration, daily living skills, and independence.

At age 18, a door to Federal Government Benefits opens.  Before turning 18, a child's eligibility for government benefits is based upon their parents' income and assets.  In many cases, the parents' level of income and assets will disqualify the child’s eligibility for means-based benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

Regardless of your child’s current abilities and/or your current financial status, it is key for every family's plan to maximize their child's eligibility for government benefits.  It is important not to eliminate options or jeopardize potential benefits by improper planning.



AGES 15-21

Unique planning requirements

  • When your child is age 17, begin to explore implementation of  guardianship or a less restrictive alternative to guardianship if they are not able to make decisions on their own.
  • In the event that your child’s assets are in excess of $2,000 and they would not financially qualify for SSI and/or Medicaid, you should contact a CFP ™ and an attorney knowledgeable in government benefits eligibility to discuss options of spending down the assets or transferring them to a Special Needs Trust (OBRA ’93 Payback Trust) prior to applying for benefits.
  • Begin to discuss with your school system the aspects of transitioning your child to the adult service world.  Attend as many educational training workshops that you can and learn as much as you can now.
  •  Identify the primary government agency that will be responsible for meeting the needs of your child upon their turning age 22 (or the age that they are no longer entitled to education services). Find out about the assessment process and requirements for obtaining services.
  • Determine if your local government provides services directly or if they hire local agencies to provide services.  Get to know the various service providers who may be available for your child’s needs.  This is a good time to speak with them about their residential and vocational services. Serve as a member of the Board of Directors of an agency and/or advocacy group and get to know how the system works.
  • If your vision is to ultimately own a home where your child will live as an adult, now is a good time to begin to explore the real estate market in the area that you desire.  The sooner you can begin to build equity in a second home, the more financially stable you will be as you approach your retirement years.  In some situations, rental property can be an ideal way to secure a residence for your child.

Planning Pointer



Planning for when your child ages out of the public school system may come with added stressors and unknowns about benefits and services. it is key to stay openminded.

There is no perfect solution for every child right when they turn age 21 or 22. Planning for what they will do all day, how they will get there, where they will live, how they will socialize with others, and who will care for them takes time and creativity. Being flexible enough to know that what you plan for today may not be what they will do for the rest of their life is helpful in your planning and advocacy efforts. Most people do not stay in the same job they have when they finish school, nor do they live in the same home or neighborhood. You will need to explore options, keeping in mind that the availability of residential services may be limited by long waitlists or other constraints.

Trying to take this all in?

You can download a printable PDF of this page. 

Janet's family


woman in wheelchair_pexels-marcus-aurelius-4064235My daughter Janet is 18 years old. She has a wheelchair, which allows her to get around, and although she can understand me, she has trouble expressing herself verbally. My husband and I were finding it difficult to physically transfer her on a day-to-day basis, especially when he travels for his work, because we need a second person to assist. We had to admit sooner than we had hoped that we needed help.

When I talked to a staff person at our local chapter of The Arc, she told me about the Medicaid personal care attendant (PCA) program. I learned that the family (or the individual) hires the staff person, and that they can directly negotiate hours. In this case, because Janet is not able to supervise the attendant, I as her parent would serve as a surrogate supervisor of the PCA. Another benefit is that the PCA, although hired to assist Janet, is also able to help her learn some independent skills beyond the classroom.

I also learned about another program that Janet might be eligible to access, the adult foster or family care (AFC) program, which is also funded by Medicaid. This would allow me or my husband to be paid to be her primary caregiver. The biggest concern with this benefit is that we are both already having difficulty with being able to move her from her wheelchair. We decided that the PCA program would allow us to hire additional helpers. Our life is so much easier now.


Check out the Knowledge Bank- with our compliments!

We are committed to sharing free educational resources with all members of the disability community. Our Knowledge Bank has a catalog of  information, along with downloadable checklists and tools, to help you begin your planning journey. We also publish the Special Needs Planning Blog to keep our followers up to date with information and events. And you may sign up to access all of the resources in our Knowledge Bank for FREE!

Ready to start planning?


  • The Special Needs Planning Guide, How to Prepare for Every Stage of Your Child's Life, Haddad/Nadworny, 2021, Brookes Publishing.

Affinia Financial Group conducts business under the Special Needs Financial Planning name. Advisory services offered through Affinia Financial Group, LLC,  a registered investment advisor. 

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual, nor intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor. There is no assurance that the techniques and strategies discussed are suitable for all individuals or will yield positive outcomes. 

The experiences described here may not be representative of any future experience of our clients, nor considered a recommendation of the advisor's services or abilities or indicate a favorable client experience. Individual results will vary.