The Children & Youth with Special Health Care Needs Program (CYSHCN Program) at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health works with families, providers, and others to support children and youth with special health needs ages birth to 22 and their families. The CYSHCN Program’s goal is to promote good health and quality of life for all children and youth with special health care needs and their families.

The CYSHCN Program’s mission is to provide leadership in assuring access to a comprehensive service system for children and youth with special health care needs by working in partnership with families, providers and other stakeholders. The Program:

  • Assures access
  • Establishes quality programs
  • Enhances expertise and knowledge
  • Sets policy
  • Strengthens infrastructure
  • Engages in continuous quality improvement

The CYSHCN Program consists of several programs, projects and initiatives. Some programs provide direct services. Others provide technical assistance, consultation and/or capacity building at the community level.

Who are “children and youth with special health care needs?”

As defined by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau: “Children with special health care needs are those who have or are at increased risk for a chronic physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional condition and who also require health and related services of a type or amount beyond that required by children generally.” (McPherson M, Arango P, Fox HB, A new definition of children with special health care needs. Pediatrics 1998; 102:137-140)

The National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs in 2009-2010 estimated that 18.3% of children under age 18 in MA (approximately 261,475 children) meet the above definition, excluding those children “at risk.” It is estimated that there are approximately 11.2 million children who meet this definition nationally.

Download Brochure

For copies of the Children & Youth with Special Health Care Needs Program brochure, email specialhealthneeds@state.ma.us.

For more information call the CYSHCN Program’s Community Support Line

Community Support Line 800-882-1435 or 617-624-6060.


This information is provided by the Division for Children & Youth with Special Health Needs within the Pregnancy, Infancy and Early Childhood Division within the Department of Public Health.