Respite refers to a period of time in which parents or guardians of a disabled child (or adult) are relieved of the responsibilities and duties of caring for a child or other family member with severe impairments or illness. During this period, another person or resource — a relative, friend, or other resource (e.g., day care centers to summer camps), stays with or provides supervision for the individual, and cares for him or her while the parent or guardian is away.
Respite care is as simple as giving the parents of a disabled child an opportunity to have some time away from their daily responsibility of providing care. It has become an important part of the strategy of managing the best care for the entire family. According to a 2004 report from the University of Portland, “respite care is frequently identified as one of the most needed and least available services for families” of children with serious emotional disorders
—Respite Grants for Disabled Children / ehow.com
The purpose of respite is to give the primary caregiver(s) the opportunity to leave the home and focus on themselves, in order to “recharge their batteries.”
The goal of respite is to have the primary caregiver(s) return to the home and their loved one ready to resume their role as parent(s) or guardian(s), thus reducing stress and preventing burn-out.
During respite, the care provider assigned to your family (child) by a social service agency or other provider doesn’t care for other children in the family or household, doesn’t care for pets or plants, and doesn’t do general “house-sitting” chores while the parent(s) or guardian(s) are away from the home.
Parents and guardians must ensure that the particular respite worker is trustworthy, and is a good match for their child and for their family.
Respite care providers are trained to be familiar with the kinds of challenges and impairments caused by FASD, such as slow processing speed, sensory processing issues, anger management concerns, memory impairment, problem-solving issues, short attention span, etc. Qualified respite providers for persons with FASD should have the following skills and knowledge:
- Techniques in the care of children, adolescents, and/or adults with the kinds of impairments associated with fetal alcohol exposure
- First aid skills
- Confidentiality rules and regulations
- Safety precautions
- Behavior management techniques
- Independent living skills
- Effects of alcohol and drugs on the brain and behavior
- Stress management
- Sensory integration issues
Beyond these typical training topics, respite providers working with families with adoptive or foster children with FASD should have the following additional skills and knowledge:
- Understand the difference between foster care and adoption
- Knowledge about the effect of separation and loss on a child
- Bonding and attachment theories
- Family integration challenges
- How children are affected by abuse and neglect
- Therapeutic interventions for children experiencing emotional disturbance, which may include aggression, suicidal tendencies, antisocial behavior, and depression.
The following suggestions may help parents or guardians in planning to for respite services from someone other than a family member, friend or neighbor:
- Make sure that you are involved in the process of matching your child with an appropriate respite provider. Whenever possible, the child should be included in the process. (Adopted children in particular may fear that the respite provider will become yet another change in their family life. These fears need to be recognized and validated by encouraging the children to ask questions and share any concerns they have about receiving respite.)
- The respite provider and the family should meet before the first respite stay to increase the family’s comfort with the provider they have selected.
- Whenever possible, one respite provider should be assigned to a family for as long as the relationship is a positive experience for all concerned. In a good respite care arrangement, the provider becomes a valuable family resource.