Pathway to Care

What is HCBS?

The 1915(c) HCBS Children’s Waiver is a program that offers supportive and caring services to children with disabilities.

What are Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS)?

In the landscape of healthcare and support, Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) in New York stand as a testament to the commitment towards personalized and compassionate care. These services are tailored to meet the unique needs of individuals, particularly children and youth, who require additional support but prefer to stay within the comfort of their homes and communities. This article will explore what HCBS encompasses, who it serves, and how it’s shaping the future of healthcare in New York.

Understanding Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS).

Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS), particularly the 1915(c) Children’s Waiver, are designed to provide supportive care to children with disabilities within the familiarity and comfort of their own homes and communities. This Medicaid-funded initiative plays a pivotal role in New York State’s commitment to offering services in the least restrictive environment possible. Its central aim is to enhance the quality of life and health outcomes for these children by preventing the need for institutional care.

HCBS encompasses a broad range of personalized services, including community habilitation, respite care, and pre-vocational training (see below for a more complete list). These services are adaptable and tailored to meet the individual needs of each child, fostering their independence and inclusion in daily life activities. A key component of HCBS is its dynamic and flexible nature, allowing families to choose from various service options and providers, empowering them to make decisions best suited to their unique circumstances.

At its core, HCBS is family-centric and youth-oriented, prioritizing the unique requirements of each child. Services are designed to be culturally and linguistically appropriate, addressing the physical health, developmental, and behavioral health needs of children and youth. By providing essential support and care in the most supportive settings, HCBS encourages the autonomy and well-being of children with disabilities or complex medical conditions, ensuring they have access to the necessary resources for their success and prosperity.

Criteria for Qualifying for the HCBS Children's Waiver:

The Children’s Waiver program is dedicated to offering empathetic support to children with disabilities in their own homes and communities. To qualify for this Medicaid program, several specific conditions must be satisfied.

Mandatory Eligibility Requirements for the HCBS Children's Waiver:

Children and youth seeking to access the HCBS Children’s Waiver must adhere to the following criteria:

1. The child/youth should be younger than 21 years of age.

2. A Level of Care (LOC) assessment is required, which involves completing the HCBS/LOC Eligibility Determination tool as part of the Uniform Assessment System (UAS).

3. The child/youth must belong to one of these LOC categories:

  • Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED)
  • Medically Fragile Children (MFC)
  • Developmental Disability (DD) combined with Medical Fragility
  • Developmental Disability (DD) in conjunction with Foster Care

Note that LOC evaluations are tailored based on the individual needs and conditions of each child or youth.

It’s crucial to recognize that eligibility criteria may differ across states. Therefore, verifying these requirements with your local Medicaid agency is important to ascertain the precise criteria applicable in your region. Fulfilling these eligibility conditions helps families assess whether the Children’s Waiver is a suitable option for their child’s care necessities.

Overview of Services Offered by Children's Home and Community-Based Services:

The Children’s HCBS program extends a diverse range of services and supports to qualified children and their families. These services encompass:


  • Community Habilitation
  • Day Habilitation
  • Caregiver/Family Advocacy and Support Services
  • Prevocational Services
  • Supported Employment
  • Respite Services, including Planned and Crisis Respite
  • Palliative Care
  • Environmental Modifications
  • Vehicle Modifications
  • Adaptive and Assistive Technology
  • Non-Medical Transportation

The Comprehensive Care Approach of HCBS:

HCBS is a holistic care system that considers the distinct strengths, preferences, and requirements of each child. The goal of offering such a broad spectrum of services is to enable children to stay within their communities, avoiding the need for more intensive care levels or placements outside their homes.

Empowering Children through HCBS:

This approach allows children to receive the necessary support to lead fulfilling lives while remaining integrated with their families and social circles. By fostering independence, self-determination, and community integration, HCBS plays a vital role in helping children with disabilities realize their maximum potential.

Who Provides the Services?

Administration and Contracting:

The HCBS 1915(c) Children’s Waiver is managed by each state’s Medicaid agency, which contracts with various provider agencies to offer services to eligible children and their families.

Provider Agency Criteria:

These provider agencies might include child-serving agencies with behavioral health and health experience, and be licensed, certified, or approved by state departments such as the Office of Mental Health (OMH), Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) , Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), or the Department of Health (DOH). They also need to be Medicaid enrolled.

Choosing a Provider:

Families should select providers based on compatibility with their child’s unique needs, considering factors like the provider’s experience with children with disabilities, service availability in their area, and alignment with the child’s care plan.

Duration of Services:

Time Frame for Services:

The duration a child or youth receives services through the Children’s Waiver varies, typically depending on eligibility and ongoing support needs.

Limitations and Waiting Lists:

Limitations on service amount per year may exist due to funding and demand. Some states might have waiting lists for specific services due to high demand.

Planning for Transition:

Families should engage with service providers and care managers to understand service duration and prepare for any changes as the child ages or needs evolve.

Coordination with Other Medicaid Services:

Integration with Medicaid Services:

The Children’s Waiver functions alongside other Medicaid services to provide thorough, coordinated care.

Case Management and Care Planning:

If a child is enrolled in both the Children’s Waiver and Medicaid Managed Care, their care plan will be developed in coordination with both programs, possibly including additional services like dental or vision care through Medicaid Managed Care.

Coverage for Specialized Care:

For hospitalization or specialized medical care beyond the waiver program, children may still be covered by traditional Medicaid benefits, ensuring appropriate care levels.

Navigating Coordination Complexity:

While the coordination between different Medicaid programs can be complex, it benefits families by offering comprehensive coverage for their child’s health needs. Close collaboration with care managers is essential to navigate these programs effectively.

Applying for the Children’s HCBS Waiver:

Contacting Agencies:

Reach out to Pathway to Care, or a designated HCBS provider agency or your state’s Medicaid office to apply for the Children’s Waiver.

Application Procedure:

You will receive an application form and guidance through the process. Be prepared to provide detailed information about your child’s disability, medical needs, and insurance information for eligibility determination.

Navigating the Process:

While the application can be lengthy and complex, the outcome is beneficial for accessing essential services and supports for your child. Remember, various resources are available to assist you in this process.


Value of the Children’s Waiver:

The Children’s Waiver is an important resource for families with children who need a nursing facility level of care. It allows children to receive necessary care while maintaining involvement in their families and communities.

Next Steps:

If you believe your child may be eligible for the Children’s Waiver, start by contacting Pathway to care, or a designated HCBS provider agency  or your state’s Medicaid office for more information and to initiate the application process.

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