Disabled Parents and Supplementary Security Income: What Do They Need, What Do They Receive?

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by Christina Sogar, University of California, Berkeley

This study is a follow-up to recent research on the well-being of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) parents and their children. The current study aims to address three main research questions. First, what prompted the parents’ decision to apply for SSI and how did they experience the process? Secondly, once on SSI, what are families’ major unmet economic and caregiving needs? Finally, what private and public supports intersect with SSI to make a difference for families’ well-being?

The data for this study consist of in-depth interviews with eighty disabled single parents who receive SSI and county-level administrative data for all participants. The interviews will explore four domains: the SSI application process, parent health and mental health, parenting processes, and the presence or absence of material and social supports. The merged administrative data will provide more and different detail on the nature and extent of service receipt.

To answer the first research question, data will be coded for themes referencing the reason for the SSI application. Bivariate statistics will test for associations between the level of difficulty with the application, including the length of time to approval, and parent health and mental health characteristics as well as available supports. The second research question will utilize univariate analysis to calculate the frequency parents’ experience economic and caregiving hardships. Finally, to answer the third research question, regression models will detail associations between receipt of public and private services and measures of family well-being including material hardship, physical caregiving, parenting stress and parenting processes.

This research encourages systematic thinking about policies that affect the well-being of SSI parent families. Policies that strengthen cooperation between public and community agencies may be developed to maximize the supports that make a difference for SSI parents and the well-being of their children. Greater understanding of families’ unmet needs will help identify potential collaborative partners for the SSI program.

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