AP PHOTOS: For family of special-needs kids, special help

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Families of special-needs kids require special help
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AP PHOTOS: For family of special-needs kids, special help
In this Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015 photo, Eric Volz-Benoit, a registered nurse who works with children afflicted with complex medical disabilities, attends to his adopted son Zachary, right, who is wheelchair-bound after being born with cerebral palsy, while Eric's partner Dennis, left rear, trims the Christmas tree at their family home in Springfield, Mass. Zachary is a patient participating in the Collaborative Consultative Care Coordinator Program, or 4C, where a team overseas all aspects of his care. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
In this Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015 photo, Zachary watches as his adoptive sister Mandie trims the Christmas tree at their home in Springfield, Mass. Zachary is a patient helped by a program funded by the Affordable Care Act, where his health care is overseen by a complex-care pediatrician and team of other medical specialists to optimize his care. Eric and Dennis Volz-Benoit say a strict routine is the key to raising their five special-needs children, including Zachary and Mandie. âItâs just kind of like a well-oiled machine,â said Eric. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
In this Tuesday Sept. 15, 2015 photo, Eric Volz-Benoit embraces his two sons, Zachary, right, and Tyler, as his partner Dennis Volz-Benoit, left, administers a blend of about twelve different medications shortly before bedtime at their home in Springfield, Mass. The couple are legal guardians for five children, two of whom have complex medical care issues. Zachary was born with cerebral palsy, Tyler is autistic. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
In this Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015 photo, Tyler Volz-Benoit embraces pediatric gastroenterology specialist Dr. Susan Goode during a doctor's appointment with his dad Eric Volz-Benoit and brother Zachary, left rear, in Springfield, Mass. Both Tyler and Zachary are affected by complex medical care issues. Zachary is a patient who is helped by a special program funded by the Affordable Care Act, where his health care is overseen by a complex care pediatrician and team of other medical specialists to optimize his care. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
In this Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015 photo, private-duty registered nurse Deb Bronner carries Zachary back to the wheelchair in his bedroom at the home of his foster-to-adopt parents Eric and Dennis Volz-Benoit in Springfield, Mass. Zachary is a patient helped by a special program funded by the Affordable Care Act, where his health care is overseen by a complex care plan including a health navigator, pediatrician and team of medical specialists to optimize his care. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
In this Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015 photo, Tyler Volz-Benoit, who is autistic, rests his head on the shoulder of his adoptive brother Ryan, who gives him a hug at their family home in Springfield, Mass. Tyler, Ryan and three other children are cared for by Eric and Dennis Volz-Benoit, who are their legal guardians and foster-to-adopt parents. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
In this Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015 photo, Tyler Volz-Benoit holds the hand of his adoptive father Eric Volz-Benoit as they prepare to leave for a family outing from their home in Springfield, Mass. Tyler is autistic, and is one of two boys in the family with complex medical care issues. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
In this Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015 photo, Eric Volz-Benoit, center, and his husband Dennis Volz-Benoit, far right, enjoy a warmer than usual winter day with their family on a grassy field the Quabbin Reservoir observation tower in Ware, Mass. The couple are legal guardians for five children, of which two have complex medical care issues. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
In this Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015 photo, Deb Bronner, a private-duty registered nurse, left, holds a gastric feeding tube with water for Zachary, who is wheelchair-bound, as Dennis Volz-Benoit, far right, and his partner Eric Volz-Benoit hold up a gastric feeding tube with water for their son Tyler, during a family outing at the Quabbin Reservoir in Ware, Mass. The couple are legal guardians for five children, of which two have complex medical care issues. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
In this Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015 photo, Eric Volz-Benoit, center, enjoys a warmer than usual December day with his family on a grassy field at the Quabbin Reservoir observation tower in Ware, Mass. Volz-Benoit is an adoptive parent to Tyler, at left, and Zachary, laughing on his chest, who both have complex medical care issues. Zachary is a patient who is helped by a special program funded by the Affordable Care Act, where his health care is overseen by a complex care pediatrician and team of other medical specialists to optimize his care. Zachary was born with cerebral palsy, Tyler is autistic. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
In this Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015 photo, Dennis Volz-Benoit, right, embraces his son Tyler as his husband Eric Volz-Benoit, left, holds Zachary during a family outing at the Quabbin Reservoir observation tower in Ware, Mass. The men are the legal guardians and foster-to-adopt parents of five special-needs children, including Zachary, who was born with cerebral palsy, and Tyler, who is autistic. They say a strict routine is the key to raising their children. âItâs just kind of like a well-oiled machine,â said Eric. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
In this Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015 photo, Dennis Volz-Benoit, center, holds the hand of his autistic son Tyler as Eric Volz-Benoit pushes the wheelchair of son Zachary, born with cerebral palsy, as the family and private-care nurse walk at the Quabbin Reservoir observation tower in Ware, Mass. The men are the legal guardians and foster-to-adopt parents of Tyler, Ryan and three other special-needs children. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — It takes a strict routine and a lot of help to raise a family of special-needs children. Few know this better than Eric and Dennis Volz-Benoit, who have five.

Typical days involve feeding tubes, breathing treatments, medications and assembly-line showers, not to mention taking kids to school, making dinner and washing clothes.

"It's just kind of like a well-oiled machine," said Eric Volz-Benoit. "The key for us is routine. Everything is routine."

But routine only goes so far for the Springfield couple and their children, Zachary, 8, who has epilepsy and cerebral palsy; Tyler, 7, who has brain damage and autism; Jayden, 5, who has post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline behavior problems; and biological siblings Ryan and Mandie, 7 and 6, who both have PTSD.

That's where the Collaborative Consultative Care Coordinator Program — known as 4C, and where Eric Volz-Benoit works as a nurse — comes in.

The program helps parents and pediatricians manage medically complex children. Families are paired with a team of helpers, including a nurse care coordinator and a social worker who can make home visits. A child's medical information is loaded into a central site, or "cloud," so any specialists needed to check or treat any given condition can get what they need quickly and easily.

The program is a partnership between Boston Medical Center and Baystate Medical Center, funded in September 2014 by a three-year, $6 million federal grant under the Affordable Care Act.

Zachary is the only one who qualifies for the coordinated care at 4C. He uses a wheelchair and requires a feeding tube and oxygen; early on after coming to live with the couple in 2008, he was frequently in and out of the hospital.

Volz-Benoit credits Zachary with helping him "grow up a lot" and become a father to his brood of special children.

"No matter how cruddy of a day I've had, all I have to do is come home and get a kiss and see that child," he said. "He balances my life. I can't imagine not having him around."

___

This story has been updated to correct the name of one of the hospitals involved in the partnership to Baystate Medical Center, instead of Bay State Medical Center.

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