What to do at 18

  1. Guardianship 

    Starting at the age of 18, you child (now adult!) will be legally responsible for their educational, medical, financial and legal decisions. They are legal adults and you will not be permitted to intervene in these decisions. You may and should start this process 6 months prior to their birthday.

Choose to complete this process one of two ways:

Do-it-yourself – visit or call your County Surrogate to obtain step-by-step instructions to complete this process yourself. Consult other parents who have been through the process.

Attorney-assisted – Utilize an attorney experienced in guardianship cases. The cost for these services run between $1,500 and $3,000.

Guardianship – DDD

Understanding Guardianship – Autism New Jersey

Hinkle, Fingles, Prior & Fischer – Protecting Your Loved One Through Guardianship

2. Social Security Benefits

Upon reaching 18, a child with special needs may be eligible to receive SSI benefits based solely on their own income and assets, separate from their parents (NJ). SSI is connected to Medicaid benefits and is an important determination for most services in New Jersey.

Supplemental Security Income Home Page — 2018 Edition

3. Attain Medicaid Eligibility

In order to access services from DDD, your childs needs to be Medicaid-eligible. This is a newer requirement. Medicaid eligibility is linked to SSI benefits – both are extremely important.

Medicaid Eligibility and DDD

4. Register/Transition to DDD (from Performcare) **

** Children born on or after January 1, 1997 must reapply for DD services after they turn 18. Children who are new to the system will have to go through the eligibility process for DDD sometime between the ages of 18 and 21.


5. Check Assets

If you child has more then $2,000 in assets in his or her name, this will make your child ineligible for Medicaid, SSI and DDD services. Consult a reputable attorney to make decisions regarding a Special Needs Trust.

Q&A: Special Needs Trusts

6. Obtain a Non-Driver ID Card

There will be many times your adult son or daughter will be required to provide identification. NJ MVC will provide an ID to non-drivers for a fee.

New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commision – Non-Driver ID

7. Pursue/Investigate Personal Preference Program

This program is a facet of medicaid that might allow you to pursue being awarded a ‘cash allowance’ to provide your own medical care to your loved one in lieu of receiving the services of a home healthcare agency. ‘Medical Care’ could include and is not limited to any assistance you give to your adult child in self-care, hygiene and medical support.


8. Complete NJCAT Assessment

The NJ CAT (NJ Comprehensive Assessment Tool) is the mandatory needs-based assessment used by the Division of Developmental Disabilities as part of the process of determining an individual’s eligibility to receive Division-funded services.

The NJ CAT assesses an individual’s support needs in three main areas: Self-care, Behavioral, and Medical.

For individuals who are applying for Division-funded services for the first time, the NJ CAT is completed as part of the DDD Intake Application process. The DDD Intake Application process, including completion of the NJ CAT, can be completed at age 18 or older (although Division-funded services are not available until age 21 and older).