Federal Government Cuts Program That Helps Military Families With Disabled Children
Stone Soup Group ends program two years early
ANCHORAGE - The federal government has cut a grant program designed to help military families with special needs children, two years earlier than expected. While it may not leave families in limbo, it could slow down the process of getting help.
Stone Soup Group is the Anchorage non-profit that for the last three years has administered the program called “AK 360.” The purpose is to help military families navigate what can be a confusing road to finding services for their special needs children both in the military and in the community.
“The military does a really good job of taking care of its own in most typical circumstances,” says Stone Soup’s executive director Kelly Donnelly. “But the nature of having a child with a disability means that it is an atypical circumstance. It’s unusual, so they don’t have the structures and the support mechanisms in place that somebody who is outside the gate or the community would have.”
About 1,500 families on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson have special needs children that would qualify them for the program. In the three years that it has been available about 300 people have used it. One of them is Paul Bennetts, whose 16-year-old son has Down Syndrome.
Bennetts says the program helped him find funding to pay for his son’s braces when doctors recommended them to help with his son’s speech. He was grateful the program was there.
“It says hey, we got your back, and we will take care of you, and thank you for your help and your service. This is here for you, so you don’t have to carry that load by yourself.”
Both the military and Stone Soup Group say families will still get the help they need for their children but the services might come a little slower. Federal funding is set to end in September of this year.