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The New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS) provides services for families and individuals to ensure their well being, health and development, and self-sufficiency. These include health care, services for individuals with disabilities and mental illness, counseling and assistance, child care, and other supportive services for working families and individuals.
The Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund (CICRF) provides eligible families with financial assistance for previously incurred medical expenses for their child that exceed 10% of the first $100,000 of income, plus 15% of any income in excess of $100,000. For children ages zero to 21, covered expenses include, but are not limited to, special ambulatory care, acute or specialized in- or out-patient hospital care, medical equipment, medically-related home and vehicle modifications such as ramps or wheelchair lifts, home health care, and medical transportation.
Child care services are coordinated through various departments: the Department of Education’s Early Childhood Education for information, programs, policy and resources; DHS’s Division of Family Development for child care operations; the Division of Developmental Disabilities for some family support services; and the Office of Licensing in the Department of Children and Families (DCF) – all in cooperation with Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies in every county. Services include information and referral to help parents find child care resources and to answer typical questions regarding types of child care, how to pay for care, and even how to become family day care and licensed child care providers.
Under the direction of DHS, an interagency team was formed in 1997 to discuss strategies for increasing and enhancing the inclusion of children with special needs in child care. Thus was the formation of what is now called the MAP to Inclusive Child Care Team, and information about this is found on this Resources for Including Children with Special Needs in Child Care page.
Child support services are coordinated by the Department to help custodial parents receive child support payments that, for one reason or another, they are not obtaining from the children’s non-custodial parent. The state child support and paternity website is www.njchildsupport.org.
Children’s mental health services are coordinated through both the Department of Human Services and the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Intensive therapeutic placement services for children with severe mental illness may be coordinated through DHS’ Division of Mental Health Services.
Either DHS’ Division of Developmental Disabilities and/or its Division of Disability Services serve children with developmental disabilities such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, autism, as well as adults with late-onset disabilities such as traumatic brain injuries or multiple sclerosis. Services include family support programs, counseling, help coordinating in-home care, some community-based services such as respite care for parents, plus information and referral services to help people find more resources.
NJ FamilyCare is New Jersey’s State Children’s Health Insurance Program, known nationally as SCHIP. It provides free or low-cost health insurance to low-income working families and individuals – primarily working families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. Those eligible for the program include adults with incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty level, and children in families earning up to 350% of the federal poverty level. They can obtain health insurance to cover the cost of routine physician visits, prescriptions, hospitalizations, lab tests, x-rays, eyeglasses and dental care for most children and for some adults.
The Office for Prevention of Developmental Disabilities (OPDD) is a public informational resource to help educate New Jerseyans about factors or activities that can cause intellectual disabilities or other developmental disabilities. It has a strong focus on prevention. OPDD strives to educate families – and especially pregnant women – about substance abuse and its effects on the unborn fetus, the dangers of small children ingesting lead paint and other environmental causes of disabilities, and about preventing childhood injuries.
The Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired coordinates and provides preventive eye health screenings and assessments for both adults and children. Programs specifically for children include early intervention services, educational and vocational rehabilitation, summer recreational programs, preparatory programs for college-bound students, and referrals to other services, as required.
In addition to child care issues, the Division of Family Development also ensures that working families and individuals get the supports and resources they need to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency. This includes helping families who are transitioning from welfare to work.
Supports that are critically important to low-income, working families include access to transportation, medical insurance, child care, housing services and other services listed below.
The NJ Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a special tax benefit for low-income working families and individuals. It may lower the amount of federal and state taxes they owe, increase their tax refund, or may provide a tax refund even if they do not owe any taxes. To get the NJ state EITC, you must file a federal tax form, be eligible for the federal EITC, and file a state income tax return.
Food Stamps – now called SNAP, for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – help eligible New Jerseyans – including senior citizens on small fixed incomes – receive benefits that help them afford a nutritionally balanced diet. Local County Welfare Agencies/Boards of Social Services determine who is eligible for food stamps.
Home Energy Assistance – The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) now operates through the Department of Community Affairs. LIHEAP provides subsidies to help low-income families and individuals pay for home heating costs or heating bills associated with rent. Households may also be eligible for medically-necessary cooling assistance, or for energy funds on an emergency basis.
The Kinship Navigator program serves families raising children who have no involvement with DYFS. Kinship caregivers are special people who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their relatives’ children – siblings, nieces, nephews, or, most often, grandchildren – providing them with a safe, reassuring environment. DFD offers a variety of support services and financial aid to kinship caregivers, who may be eligible for monthly payments through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The children under their care may be eligible for Medicaid health insurance.
NOTE: The Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), in the Department of Children and Families, has a similar Kinship Care program, which serves children who are under the supervision of DYFS.
All other eligible refugees can receive assistance through WorkFirst New Jersey – which is New Jersey’s welfare program for families, formally called WorkFirst New Jersey Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (WFNJ/TANF).
Please refer to the new Department of Children and Families to access information on programs which were previously under the Department of Human Services.