In the last couple of years, U.S. corporations have been paying a lot more attention to the 54 million adults–nearly 20% of the nation’s population–that have mental or physical disabilities. And with 6.3% of American children between the ages of 5 and 15 suffering from a disability, companies are also focusing on working parents who care for them. It’s to their benefit: Employers suffer lost productivity when workers take time off to tend to the needs of affected children and adult offspring. According to BusinessWeek, in what have become the latest benefit programs, companies including PepsiCo, KPMG, JPMorgan Chase, and Northrop Grumman are offering services that range from parent networks to Web seminars to meetings with financial planners and educational consultants. In addition, a growing crop of advisers is emerging to guide families through the financial, medical, and educational labyrinth. Outside of corporate programs, specialty units such as Merrill Lynch’s Special Needs Financial Services group, MetLife’s MetDESK Division of Estate Planning for Special Kids, and MassMutual Financial Group’s SpecialCare group have dominated the market. They work directly with families on the complex special-needs financial planning process.
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