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Study: Hiring Family to Care for Children With Disabilities

Home healthcare aid assists a disabled child into bed with a harness chair.
With the raising need for more healthcare practitioners growing, hiring family members as certified nursing assistants (CNAs) may be a solution to provide consistent care for children with disabilities.

Children with disabilities need a high level of care, which can be difficult considering the fact that over 2 million health care jobs are unfilled.

A recent study in Colorado showed that hiring family members as certified nursing assistants (CNAs) can be an effective way to provide consistent care for children with disabilities.

Read on to learn more about how this works.

About the Study

In a study published by The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers studied children in Colorado who received Medicaid care from CNAs who were family members or non-family members. The study showed that children who received care from family members were less likely to require additional nursing-level care. Paid family caregivers are naturally much more likely to remain in the caregiving roles than non-family members.

Colorado’s program to pay parents and other family members to serve as caregivers has been in place since 2001. These family members receive CNA certifications and then are hired by home health agencies to care for their children. Elsewhere in the country, grandparents sometimes serve in these roles, but many states will not pay parents to care for their own disabled children.

What Can a Family CNA Caregiver Do?

The idea of delivering health care services can be intimidating for those who do not work in the medical field. However, after receiving training as a certified nursing assistant, a family member will be qualified to do the following for a disabled child in their family:

  • Collect Vital Signs

  • Feed with a Tube or Syringe

  • Transfer & Bathe Safely

  • Provide Chest Percussion Therapy

  • Set Oxygen Flow Rates

  • Place Braces & Splits

A family CNA would not be qualified to change IV catheter dressings or provide respiratory care for tracheostomy or ventilator patients. Children with disabilities can receive care from family and non-family CNA caregivers working on different shifts in the same day.

Results of the Study

At the end of the three-year study, 82% of the family caregivers were still providing care, compared to 9% for the non-family caregivers.

This was true even though the family members were making an hourly average wage of $14.60 compared to $17.60 for their non-family counterparts. The quality of care was almost identical as well, with the family members’ children only requiring one additional day of hospitalization per year.

“States should consider adopting policies that promote avenues to allow parents to obtain CNA or other relevant credentials and to be paid for their child’s care,” the researchers stated. “Such policies would enable state programs to meet their legal obligation to provide medical services for enrolled children while also reducing family financial strain.”

If you and your family would benefit from a consultation with a qualified special needs planning attorney, call Sharek Law Office at 412-347-1731 or click here to schedule your free 15-minute phone call consultation to discuss your unique needs and the options available to you and yours.


This article is a service of Sharek Law Office, LLC. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That's why we offer a Life and Legacy Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Life and Legacy Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge. Please note this is educational content only and is not intended to act as legal advice.

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