FRIDAY, Sept. 17, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Families of children with special health care needs (CSHCN) often reduce work hours or leave a job to care for their child and lose an estimated average of $18,000 a year in household income, according to a study published in the September issue of Pediatrics.

Carolyn Foster, M.D., from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues used data from the 2016 to 2017 National Survey of Children’s Health to identify 14,050 families of CSHCN with previously employed caregivers.

The researchers found that forgone family employment (FFE) due to a child’s health condition occurred in 14.5 percent of employed families with CSHCN and was 40.9 percent in families of children with intellectual disability. Disproportionately high FFE was seen among CSHCN ages 0 to 5 years old and with Hispanic ethnicity. There was a strong association between FFE and increasing hours of family-provided medical care (adjusted odds ratios, 1.72 for less than one hour/week versus zero hours, 5.96 for one to four hours/week, 11.89 for five to 10 hours/week, and 8.89 for more than 10 hours/week). Approximately $18,000 per year was lost in earnings for each household with FFE.

“In addition to considering the expansion of paid family leave and health-related economic assistance policies, we need to improve the availability of childcare programs that serve children with neurologic, behavioral, or device-dependent needs,” Foster said in a statement. “We also need to expand the availability of a high-quality home health care workforce, in efforts [to] mitigate families’ need to leave work due to their children’s health.”

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