A New Initiative from Kids’ Chance Is Helping Even More Kids Impacted by WC Injuries Achieve a Brighter Future
When a worker is seriously or even fatally injured on the job, their family is often left trying to pick up the pieces while simultaneously dealing with a steep change to their own financial situation. These injuries can leave an individual out of work for extended periods of time, and recovery does not always guarantee that the injured worker will return to the same position or the same pay rate.
That can be a daunting prospect for families, especially those with young children who wish to attend college or vocational school one day. That’s why Kids’ Chance of America works diligently to provide these kids with exactly that — a chance at an education.
In 2022, the organization completed its ambitious goal of establishing a Kids’ Chance presence in all 50 states. Since its inception in 1988, Kids’ Chance organizations have awarded over 9,300 scholarships totaling more than $33.2 million. That includes 668 scholarships awarded last year in the total amount of $2,746,443.
And 2023 looks to be another impressive year.
Part of the strategic plan this year is to develop a robust pipeline of eligible students through the Planning for the Future initiative. Students can apply for a Kids’ Chance scholarship beginning at age 16. However, dependent children whose parent suffered a serious injury or death now have the opportunity to begin the submission process at any age.
That’s where Planning for the Future really steps in.
“What we’d really like to see this year is an increase in the number of submissions,” said Jennifer Wolf, president, Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Insurers Association, and a Kids’ Chance board member since 2017.
“Our goal in 2023 is to increase the submissions in Planning for the Future by 15%. We are working to increase the number of children in our database so that we can build stronger connections early and increase the number of scholarship applicants that state organizations receive.”
Wolf leads the Student Applicant Pipeline Task Force as chair for this initiative. Through Planning for the Future, the organization will be able to reach more kids and provide a chance at an education for many years to come.
There are a number of ways the organization is working to reach its 15% increase goal.
Word of Mouth
In order to increase the number of submissions this year, the Student Applicant Pipeline Task Force has been collaborating to identify the best avenues to spread the Kids’ Chance message to families with young children who’ve had a parent injured on the job.
“We’ve collaborated to identify where the pipeline of these children exists and where we will be able to bring awareness to them,” said Andrea Buhl, president of managed care, Sedgwick, and a task force member.
“We have a vast array of really talented people on our task force. I am privileged to work with a lot of other leaders within our industry, from other payers, from other service providers, such as nurse case management organizations, down to folks who have connections with the judicial system, judges and attorneys,” Buhl added.
It is this array of talent that enables the task force to spread its message across numerous platforms and bolster the Planning for the Future initiative. What the task force has realized is that key groups within the workers’ compensation industry are in a unique position to educate families on the initiative.
“These different types of organizations and service providers are in connection with families and are in a position to talk to them about Planning for the Future,” Wolf explained. “That includes case managers and claims adjusters, people who are in regular contact with these families.”
Tapping into these close relationships is a great way to educate people about Planning for the Future. But there’s another angle that’s proven as positive for growing the initiative.
Kids’ Chance has volunteer organizations in each state, and as such, many states have strong relationships with plaintiffs’ attorneys within their area.
“Plaintiffs’ attorneys have direct connection with individuals and families,” said Wolf, “so we’re working to identify, from a national perspective, how we can connect with plaintiffs’ attorney groups so that they too can educate and inform about Planning for the Future.”
One such example, task force member and Kids’ Chance of New Jersey president Joseph Sabatini, was able to utilize his relationships with state plaintiffs’ attorneys to increase the number of applicants within New Jersey. According to Wolf, the state has seen an increase in applicants — and therefore recipients — after direct referrals from plaintiffs’ attorney groups.
Equipped with the Know-How
The task force provides education and the tools necessary to empower industry messengers and encourage them to discuss the benefits of Planning for the Future with families facing a serious injury.
As mentioned, the task force has taken the time to identify the workers’ comp industry groups most likely to come in regular contact with these families — attorneys, judges, HR, claims adjusters, claims managers, nurses.
“All these different avenues are opportunities for us to bring awareness of Kids’ Chance,” said Buhl.
“Within our task force, within our committees, we have people who are responsible for making contact with each of these pipelines. I work most frequently with case managers.”
Through her role at Sedgwick, Buhl has a connection to over a thousand case managers and nurses who have contact with injured workers and their family members. When a catastrophic case enters the system, catastrophic case management nurses know how to interact with families going through traumatic events.
“Since joining Kids’ Chance, I’ve seen the teams work closely to develop specific criteria to make it very easy for our nurses to understand who qualifies for a referral into the Planning for the Future program,” said Buhl.
Part of this included coming up with training for the nurses to help identify not just the right families for a Kids’ Chance scholarship but also the right time to introduce Kids’ Chance into the discussion.
Catastrophic injuries are a delicate matter. They are traumatic. There is nuance as to when a nurse (or any other constituent) should bring up Kids’ Chance and education scholarships. This is something that the group has dedicated time to understand so that when plaintiffs’ attorneys, claims adjusters, nurse case managers or whoever connects with a family, they know what to do and how to present the information.
“We want to make sure the family is ready to hear that and ready to process that,” Buhl said.
Easy to Apply
Kids’ Chance strives to make it as simple as possible. When it comes to actually submitting a child’s name to the Planning for the Future database, it’s quite easy for the family.
“It’s a really easy and simple submission form. It’s an electronic form asking for very basic contact information,” Wolf explained. She did add that the most complex part of filling out the form is that the person submitting will need to have the claim injury number at the ready, but once it’s in, the task force takes the lead.
“Once they’re submitted into the database, Kids’ Chance of America will follow up with them on a quarterly basis to make sure that the contact information stays up to date.”
And, once the child reaches 16, the organization will refer them directly to their state organization, where they can apply for a scholarship.
How You Can Help the Cause
The Planning for the Future task force is laying the groundwork and doing its due diligence to provide already-identified pipelines with the knowledge and know-how to help workers’ compensation professionals educate families on Kids’ Chance.
But they don’t have to be doing it alone.
Anyone with a connection to individuals who have faced serious or fatal injury should encourage families to apply.
“It goes hand in hand with [asking yourself] the question, ‘how am I able to touch the lives of these children and where are the opportunities to make a difference?’ ” said Buhl.
Whether you are an employer, a risk manager, an HR professional or a workers’ comp expert, getting involved with Kids’ Chance is as easy as reaching out and getting started.
And when it comes to Planning for the Future, “if you are in a position at an organization where there are people working with you who you can influence and educate, that’s an opportunity to expand the Kids’ Chance Planning for the Future initiative,” Buhl said. &
Kids’ Chance is the official charity partner of National Comp, presented by Risk & Insurance.
If you have any questions about the Planning for the Future initiative or Kids’ Chance, please contact [email protected].