Many, many families can be helped with just a little bit of stable, reliable respite. Please support HB 1546
There are options that need to be looked at so that families can receive respite – it is not enough to just add hours without finding a way to provide that respite to families. Families who are already eligible for respite hours do not have enough providers. We need to look at ways to improve the system to make respite accessible and reliable for families.
When respite providers make little more than a babysitter (this may not be true – a teenage babysitter may make more than a respite provider who is providing care to adults and children with challenging special needs) it’s no wonder that families cannot find or keep a provider.
What happens is families stay home to provide care for their child. Typically, when your child develops and grows, when they are teenagers you are able to leave them alone for awhile. Not so with our families. We need to be there when our child comes home on the bus. We need to be there all afternoon and evening. Jobs are lost, opportunities for siblings are lost. It’s not just watching them – it’s making sure they are toileted, making sure they have something to eat, making sure they are safe, making sure they have their medications and more. It’s being attentive and involved in their care and well-being, keeping them active and engaged, interested in activities and helping them along the way, giving needed supports.
Without respite our families are becoming socially excluded – isolated from community. This is not what the inclusion movement was intended to do but it has become the reality for many families.
One mother testified very frankly to the DD Service System Task Force on October 23, 2012. You can hear how grateful those who are able to have respite are and also the difficulties they face and will continue to face with our current system in place.
Please take a look at other options: in-home or facility based are not the only options available. Many more could access respite if DDD partnered with schools, community centers, city park and county park departments. The Seattle Parks and Recreation Specialized program is the program that I am most familiar with. This program has been the best respite for our son – not only providing stable, reliable care with experienced providers in working with the DD population but they have provided many group activities, experiences and outings that we would never have had the energy to do.
With this center-based or activity based respite (although it was not paid for by respite hours – we paid for it) was the best option for not only our son but our family. Specialized Programs also offers day camps and overnight camps every summer. Every year we see staff members return to take part in these events. It would be wonderful to develop more programs such as this to provide stable respite care with trained providers for our most vulnerable populations.
By utilizing a center based respite we could pay the providers more than minimum wage which would add to provider stability, have transportation to and/or from school for after school respite, provide respite right in the community, provide meaningful activities, have staff support (thereby not relying on one person to show up at your house – we have all experienced the unreliability of this situation which only adds to the family’s stress) and there are more eyes on everyone to help with prevention of negligent care.
By sharing resources and pooling resource the resources will go much further and benefit many more by making these services accessible.