SPRINGFIELD, Mass., July 17, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- With 20 million American families having at least one member with special needs, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) is launching a campaign to raise awareness of the important decisions and financial challenges they face. MassMutual's Facebook initiative encourages the company's social community to get a glimpse into the day of a mother and child with special needs. For every "like" to the video generated on the Facebook app, MassMutual will donate $5 to the Easter Seals' Make the First Five Count® program, which promotes awareness and facilitates early identification of disabilities and development delays. Additionally, the tab will link to helpful resources from MassMutual and Easter Seals for families with members with special needs.
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Today, five million children under the age of five are at risk for a disability, developmental delay or autism, but last year only 20 percent of them received the critical early intervention services they need to reach their full potential. At a time when Americans are increasingly under significant financial pressures, MassMutual believes it is imperative for all families to have the necessary information and qualified resources to get their financial house in order.
"From medical costs to guardianship, we recognize the tremendous responsibility faced by parents of special needs children," said Joanne Gruszkos, director of MassMutual's SpecialCare(SM) program. "Our highly trained financial professionals, including Special Care Planners and those with the Chartered Special Needs Consultant designation are uniquely positioned to provide support and guidance for these families throughout the entire planning process."
MassMutual's SpecialCare(SM) program provides access to information – from how families can provide the best care for their loved ones to how they can plan for today and the future. Financial professionals with the ChSNC designation receive advanced training in estate and tax planning, special needs trust, government programs and the emotional dynamics of working with people with disabilities and other special needs. MassMutual first introduced the Special Care Planner training program in 2004. Then in 2010, MassMutual worked with the American College to deliver the more rigorous Chartered Special Needs Consultant designation, which builds on the Special Care Planner training but requires completion of several additional classroom hours and a series of exams. MassMutual's two education tracks have exclusively helped its financial professionals better understand and provide counsel to parents and caregivers of people with disabilities and other special needs.
"When it comes to autism and other disabilities, early identification and early intervention are key for both the children at risk and their families," said James E. Williams, Jr., president and chief executive officer of Easter Seals. "It's important that families have access to qualified financial professionals who can guide them through what can be an overwhelming but necessary process."
For families of special needs children, MassMutual says the most important things to consider when implementing a financial strategy are:
- A team approach – Seek financial professionals who have the special needs experience and are willing to guide you through the important financial decisions that affect your entire family.
- A caregiver and a letter of intent – Identify the person who will care for your loved one and draft a letter of intent that will serve as a guide for that person to provide care, support and other assistance after you are gone.
- Long-term expenses – Plan ahead for expenses such as housing, education, work opportunities and daily transportation when determining your loved one's lifetime financial needs.
- Availability of government benefits – Research the benefits that are provided by the federal government for families affected by special needs. You may qualify for assistance.
- A will in place – Make sure you have beneficiary arrangements and a current will that align with your other financial planning strategies.
Founded in 1851, MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyholders. The company has a long history of financial strength and strong performance, and although dividends are not guaranteed, MassMutual has paid dividends to eligible participating policyholders every year since the 1860s. With whole life insurance as its foundation, MassMutual provides products to help meet the financial needs of clients, such as life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, retirement/401(k) plan services, and annuities. In addition, the company's strong and growing network of financial professionals helps clients make good financial decisions for the long-term.
MassMutual Financial Group is a marketing name for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and its affiliated companies and sales representatives. MassMutual is headquartered in Springfield, Massachusetts and its major affiliates include: Babson Capital Management LLC; Baring Asset Management Limited; Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers LLC; The First Mercantile Trust Company; MassMutual International LLC; MML Investors Services, LLC, Member FINRA and SIPC; OppenheimerFunds, Inc.; and The MassMutual Trust Company, FSB.
About Easter Seals
Easter Seals is the leading non-profit provider of services for individuals with autism, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities and other special needs. For more than 90 years, we have been offering help and hope to children and adults living with disabilities, and to the families who love them. Through therapy, training, education and support services, Easter Seals creates life-changing solutions so that people with disabilities can live, learn, work and play. Learn more at www.easterseals.com and www.makethefirstfivecount.org.
 Wang, Q. (2005, July). Disability and American Families: 2000. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
 Up to $25,000
 National Survey of Children's Health, 2007
 U.S. Department of Education, ideadata.org