When a child undergoes treatment for a life-threatening illness, the parents often feel debilitated themselves — physically, emotionally and spiritually. On top of the strenuous demands of families’ personal and professional lives, navigating essential treatments can be taxing; and that includes worrying about healthcare expenses. While a child’s life is, of course, priceless, care is costly. Medical debt can quickly add up. Thankfully, for nearly two decades, one nonprofit has worked to ease financial hardships so parents can pay attention to their child’s health, rather than worry about medical debt and basic needs.
“There is an economic burden that comes when children are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness,” explains Autumn Strier, chief executive officer and co-founder of Miracles for Kids. “Our mission is to try and help offset that, relieving some of the financial burdens with our programs so parents can focus on their family during these difficult times.”
Based in Orange County, California, Strier co-founded Miracles for Kids to aid families in her own community and beyond. Under her dedicated leadership, Miracles for Kids has raised a whopping $43 million since its inception in 2004. The nonprofit’s monetary assistance efforts have increased greatly since its founding, and it now provides financial aid, housing, food, basic necessities, counseling and other long-term stability services for 2,000+ families with children battling over 150 life-threatening illnesses and/or debilitating conditions.
Nearly a quarter of Americans have medical debt.
Birth defects affect one in every 33 babies born in the U.S. each year, according to the CDC. That translates to about 120,000 babies. Each year, total hospital costs for U.S. children and adults with birth defects exceed $23 billion, not including outpatient care or many provider charges. Plus, many more children are diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses or disabilities at a later time during childhood.
A LendingTree survey found that 23% of Americans currently have medical debt, with another 22% reporting they’ve previously had medical debt. The same survey also found that parents with younger children have a higher rate of medical debt compared to those with older children or those without children. 30% of parents with children younger than 18 years of have have medical debt, versus 20% of those without children and 19% of those with only adult children.
Many nonprofits have a mission related to childhood illnesses and/or disabilities but direct funding to research and programs. Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of nonprofits that offer financial assistance directly to patients and families. And even with health insurance, out-of-pocket costs for premiums, co-pays and deductibles can cost families thousands of dollars per year. Not to mention the many families that are uninsured and/or underinsured.
“The last thing families should have to do when faced with their child having a life-threatening illness is to worry about how to pay bills or purchase necessities,” added Strier. “We have worked hard over the years to build four core programs that really help our families survive; such as paying bills, offering counseling, providing housing and basic necessities.”
Adding to its support services, Miracles for Kids recently launched its fifth initiative. The Pillars Stability Program is designed to help families with a critically ill child achieve long-term stability. The program helps members of the family with aspects of education, financial literacy and employment.