VENDOR SPOTLIGHT – Stewart Home and School

StewartHomeandSchool_150803The Stewart Home and School is an impressive residential school in Franklin County, Kentucky for intellectually disabled individuals. At Arlington, we are always searching for creative ways in which our clients can prudently use their special needs pooled trust funds. More families and providers need to learn about this amazing facility.

The school was established in 1893 by Dr. John Q.A. Stewart and five generations later it is still being run by his descendants. We met CEO Barry Banker at a conference in late 2014, who is married to the great-grand daughter of Dr. Stewart and he gave us a tutorial.

Most special education programs end at age 21, and then adult settings focus on vocational options or daily living. Stewart Home and School has no age limitations for students and assigns each person a special education plan in addition to goals for vocational placement, daily living skills, and social maturity growth.  Says Sandra Bell,  the Director at Stewart:

“Our students thrive on structure and love to be busy.  They can’t initiate much themselves but look forward to being scheduled.  Our youngest is 13 years old and our oldest student is 86.”

The old bluegrass estate has residence halls, classrooms, a gymnasium, a pavilion, a fitness center, library, ball field, riding ring, stables, fishing ponds and extensive grounds. The setting is as lovely and complete as any rural college campus. Students at Stewart enjoy the common areas as much as their own private rooms.

The faculty of the school program has experience with the learning styles of people with autism, Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, Williams syndrome, as well as other intellectual disabilities. It is the objective of the school program to create successful learning experiences for all students and to consistently reinforce an individual’s enthusiastic motivation for participation and further growth.

While Stewart offers practical curricula — Math, Health and Wellness, Computer Skills, Reading, Science and Social Studies — it also offers a wide variety of electives. Some examples are: Fine Art, Music, Yoga, Leadership Class and Current Events.  One of the most popular courses has to do with daily living skills and money management.  Many families want to emphasize rudimentary math skills in conjunction with an understanding of day-to-day finances.  Each teacher is assigned to a group of students and tasked to create an individual plan.  Progress with an individual’s program is communicated to the person’s family throughout the semester.

The tuition cost is $3,020.00 per month and is the same for every student; this includes room and board. In addition the school instructs that $300.00 or so may be needed for incidentals.  There is no pre-established length of time for a person’s learning program.  While a semester lasts four months, parents can customize a learning program for as short as a week.  More information is available on the school’s website (www.stewarthome.com). 

We encourage clients that have adequate funds in their special needs pooled trust to look into the school as an education option or as an alternative to a vacation.

Social Security Weighs In Regarding End of Life Planning

Social Security is clear about resources for Supplemental Security Income or SSI. Nonetheless, there is confusion among providers, families, and direct support professionals when it comes to funding end-of-life plans. In April 2015, we attended a conference where the Administration’s SSI Program Expert, Mandy Stokes, spoke about this issue.

To review, individuals receiving SSI are allowed the following resources for burial:

• burial funds up to $1,500

• insurance or life insurance up to $1,500

• cemetery plots, headstones and funerary merchandise

None of these allowances are helpful to caregivers in truly funding a funeral plan; the average cost for a traditional funeral runs between $7,000 – $10,000 nationally. Fortunately, Social Security does suggest some solutions.

The SS encourages the purchase of a pre-paid funeral plan that is irrevocable.   In other words, there must be a purchase of goods and services; and this purchase must be made into an irrevocable trust or other irrevocable instrument.

Burial reserve accounts, CDs, and even irrevocable burial savings are considered resources if the balance is over $1,500. This is because these accounts have not been used to purchase anything. There is no pre-paid plan and the funds are not attached to the delivery of any goods and services to the individual.

The following slide was part of Ms. Stokes’s talk at the MidAtlantic Pooled Trust Conference on April 10, 2015. The first two bullet points concern a permissible expenditure from a special needs pooled trust.   The third bullet point and the last bullet point are particularly relevant to how Social Security prefers how an end-of-life plan is structured.SS

Finally, we unearthed an SSA newsletter written in 2002 that is still helpful. Even though the newsletter is nearly 13 years old, the information is still good and provides a useful guideline for families and DSPs. Access the newsletter copy here.

If you have further questions about this subject, please call (215) 672-1184.