Many GMS clients have transferees who require special needs relocation services. Sometimes the need is for a family member who will be relocating with the transferee. Other times, the need is for the transferee. Pre-decision services help employers identify specific points so they can provide the appropriate resources and solutions. Often these solutions require a compassionate approach, to help the transferee and their family members have peace of mind for the relocation.

GMS spoke with Ann Hinch, International Destination Service Manager at Go Destination Services who agreed to share her knowledge and expertise on this topic.

Three Situations that Require Special Needs Relocation Services

Relocating a transferee often requires attention to the needs of their immediate family members as well. In some cases, there may be special needs relocation services. According to Ann, there are three types of situations requiring a compassionate approach:

  • Providing information and options for elder care
  • Education options for children with special needs
  • Home-finding for transferees moving with an assistance animal

Elder Care

A Pew Research Center survey in 2018 found that 14 percent of older adults living in someone else’s household were the parents of the head(s) of that household, up from just 7 percent in 1995. Transferees moving with an aging parent may ask for special attention to the type of accommodations in the home they will need to rent or purchase. They may want to know about elder care services in their destination city, including:

  • Senior centers
  • Medical resources
  • Home health care
  • Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals, offices, care homes

Options Available

If a transferee is seeking separate housing for an elderly or special-needs adult family member, there are a number of options available, depending on the destination area’s resources. Nursing homes provide an intensive level of medical and personal care around the clock. However, assisted living communities allow residents more of a measure of independence. Independent-living communities are geared for those who can take care of themselves but may require meal preparation, housekeeping, laundry, or transportation services.

Ann notes that it is recommended that those caring for elder and special-needs family members research and visit these specialized facilities ahead of placement. Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare aggregates care quality data for every Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing home in the United States. Nursing Home Inspect, run by independent journalism site ProPublica, uses data from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The site provides an unbiased database of nursing homes across the country.

Children with Special Needs Relocation Services

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, in May 2019 14 percent of students under age 21 in U.S. public schools received special education services. Connecting families with districts that serve special-needs children may start with a state’s Department of Education website. Alternatively, it may begin with calling the office for that agency to learn about special-needs schools and programs in the destination city.

Ann believes that another valuable lead is social media. For instance, a parent can join and follow a Facebook group for a school they have an interest in. This way, they can see what other families have to say about the special-needs programs and learning environment.

Research Tools

There are non-government online research tools valuable for helping narrow the field of learning institutions to contact in a given region. Two such tools are Public School Review and Private School Review. Both offer a categorical search of many fields of requirement, including special-needs education. Each school includes data such as rankings, opportunity for comments by parents, contact information, tuition, and much more. Another helpful research tool is Niche.

According to Ann, GO’s best resource for local schools and other special needs relocation services program information is their database of talented area consultants in destination cities. GO’s in-house research team also frequently supplements the area consultants’ efforts. Ann shared that sometimes GO is asked to provide research that affects a relocation decision. For example, a recent request came from a couple who were considering relocating from China to New Jersey. Their son had special needs, and GO was tasked by the father’s employer to compile a list of public and private schools with relevant programming. This research greatly aided the family in deciding to accept the employer’s relocation offer to the U.S.

Assistance Animals

Since domesticating dogs thousands of years ago, humans have valued them and many other animals for companionship and protection. Some domesticated animals have special training to provide service or assistance. This could include helping someone who has limited vision, or monitoring and alerting someone to the onset of seizures.

In Ann’s research, she has found that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines an assistance animal as one that “works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or that provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified effects of a person’s disability.” Assistance animals are not classified as pets when it comes to seeking most types of rental housing, though there are some exemptions for single-family homes rented without an agent and owner-occupied buildings with four or fewer units. Also, breed and weight restrictions do not apply.

Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act requires housing providers to allow reasonable accommodation for assistance animals if the request to have the animal is supported by reliable documentation for the disability and meets other requirements – such as that having the animal would not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others, or would not result in significant physical damage to property. “Reasonable accommodation” also means providers must waive pet fees, though a pet deposit may still apply.

In booking a hotel or temporary accommodations for a transferee with a service dog, the Americans with Disabilities Act states any such person must be provided the same opportunity to reserve any room as other guests. It is important to note for purposes of the ADA that “service dogs” and “assistance animals” are separate categories. Therefore, it is a good idea to consult a hotel or other public accommodation ahead of arrival. Be sure to inquire about documentation for any animal that is not a service dog.

What Should Employers Do About Special Needs Relocation Services?

Employers should leverage pre-decision services to help identify any special needs relocation services their transferee may need. A Relocation Management Company (RMC) with knowledge and experience will help employers understand how to provide a compassionate approach to address specific transferee needs. As a result, transferees and their family members will have peace of mind. Their relocation process will also be smooth and successful.


GMS’ team of global relocation experts has helped thousands of our clients understand how to identify if transferees require any special needs relocation services through our robust pre-decision services. As a result, our team can help your company understand how to identify specific points of concern. In turn, this will help your company provide the appropriate resources and solutions.

GMS was the first relocation company to register as a .com. The company also created the first online interactive tools and calculators, and revolutionized the entire relocation industry. GMS continues to set the industry pace as the pioneer in innovation and technology solutions with its proprietary MyRelocation® technology platform.

Contact our experts online to learn more about special needs relocation services, or give us a call at 800.617.1904 or 480.922.0700 today.

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Senior Vice President, Global Account Management Sam joined Global Mobility Solutions in 1996 and has a unique perspective with her 25 years of industry experience. Samantha offers her clients relocation expertise and a commitment to excellence in her. Her proficiency in orchestrating the BVO and GPO Programs, as well as relocation policy design and implementation, are invaluable assets to the accounts she manages. Her experience in administering Pre-Decision Relocation services to enhance the recruiting process further demonstrates her unique abilities to service her clients. Samantha’s diverse experience, leadership, and outstanding communication skills enable her to manage the relocation process for her clients with finesse and polished professionalism.

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