With unprecedented numbers of children now being identified as having special medical and educational needs, the United States must develop a comprehensive strategy for addressing childhood disability—including its prevalence, nature, treatment and consequences. The nation’s resources for meeting the needs of children with disabilities and their families is increasingly constrained, and policymakers and advocates are examining ways to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of federal programs designed to support poor disabled children, including the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.
On May 8, Princeton University and the Brookings Institution released the latest issue of The Future of Children—a journal focusing on research and practice on vital children’s issues—examining the increasing impact of childhood disability. Journal editor Janet Currie provided an overview of the issue’s contents, and Ron Haskins of Brookings presented findings from an accompanying policy brief examining the efficacy of the SSI program and outlining potential reforms. Following their presentations, Kenneth Apfel of the University of Maryland presented a keynote address on the last major reforms to the SSI children’s program implemented during his tenure as commissioner of the Social Security Administration. A panel of experts and advocates discussed the SSI program for children, whether the program is operating as intended, and whether reforms are needed and justified.