Respite is defined as “an interval of rest or relief”. The Respite Care Program of Child & Family Focus (CFF) provides short-term, temporary care to families who need a break from the daily challenges of caring for a child with mental health needs. Unlike typical childcare, respite care is utilized to increase the wellness of the family and prevent unwanted crises.
The benefits of respite care are many. The relief given to both the child and family can alleviate stress and fatigue. Respite also works proactively to support family unity, lending to the well being of the entire household.
If you reside in Bucks, Chester, or Delaware Counties and have a child or young adult (age 3-21) with a mental health diagnosis and minimal child care support, your child may be referred to our program. (Please call if you live in a neighboring county to discuss eligibility). After we receive the referral, we may schedule a face-to-face assessment of your child and family to determine if, and how much, respite is appropriate. Since respite is not a medical service, it can be provided only to a child that is psychiatrically stable.
Your child can be referred by his/her mental health service provider who will complete and send to us the Respite Referral form. If your child is not currently receiving any mental health services, please call a Respite Coordinator at 610-783-1788 x248. He/She will help you determine what appropriate steps should be taken.
Depending upon where a family resides and the mental health services in place, respite is funded by county Community Based Respite Program grants, on a sliding scale basis, through private pay arrangements, and/or via agency or program contracts. If a family has the financial means, we ask that they make a voluntary contribution of which 100% will be put toward supporting current services.
Children receiving services from the mental health system, who are already receiving respite support through the MR system, are not disqualified from this program; however, this factor will be considered when having to prioritize families that need care.
Your family and CFF, along with the referral source, would determine what kind of respite care is best for your child. Services can be provided in your home, in the provider’s home, or in the community, depending on the situation and severity of your child’s needs.
After becoming authorized to receive respite, a family is awarded a number of respite hours or overnights to use within a 2-3 month period. For hourly respites, a parent/guardian and provider match may directly schedule respite stays that work best for both parties. For overnight respites, a parent/guardian must schedule the stays directly with a Respite Care Coordinator. All scheduled services depend upon provider availability.
A parent/guardian may schedule a respite stay up to a month in advance (this is considered a “planned respite”). On some occasions, a request might be made with little advance notice (this is considered an “unplanned respite”). Finding a provider in either circumstance cannot be guaranteed, and is considerably more challenging for unplanned respites.
The need for respite in our community is great; because of this reality, we strive to spread our limited funding to provide a break to as many families as possible. To support this goal, we typically re-evaluate a family’s need for respite services every 2-3 months (this may vary on a case-by-case basis). The ultimate goal is for your family to develop or expand your natural support network. We offer periodic trainings for willing relatives and friends to help you toward this goal.
In order to understand your child’s needs, potential respite providers would be given information about your child’s history, strengths, mental health issues, and any challenging behaviors. At the same time, your family and/or referring mental health provider would be given necessary information about the prospective respite home and its environment (for out-of-home respite situations). In most situations, a pre-service interview would be arranged between your family and the potential provider(s). Both parties would work with CFF to decide whether the match is appropriate.
Families do have the opportunity to identify and select a respite provider whom they feel would be appropriate for their child (the prospective respite provider would be required to go through our qualification process, including the need to obtain his/her Act 33 clearances).
CFF conducts an interview, during which the applicant’s experience, motivations, and training are discussed. CFF also conducts both personal and professional reference checks, verifying that the applicant has no criminal, child abuse or FBI record (via Act 33 clearances) and lives in an insured home that meets State of PA safety standards (determined during a home safety inspection and home study interview conducted by our agency, in situations where the individual would be providing care in his/her home). Applicants must also get a physical examination, verifying that they are free from communicable disease, and must provide a current driver’s license and car insurance.
CFF supervises all of our approved, contracting respite providers. Our staff members regularly communicate with and monitor both our in-home and out-of-home respite providers to ensure they are following the rules and regulations set forth by CFF and the State of Pennsylvania. CFF, along with the child’s parent(s), collectively and regularly communicate to discuss the progress of the respite stays and suitability of the provider.
Emergency contact information is included on CFF’s Respite Referral form, and given to the provider. We require that a Crisis Plan be in place, should an emergency arise during respite.
Respite providers must have a valid driver’s license and fully insured car. CFF supervises and assists parents and out-of-home respite providers as they arrange a child pick-up and drop off point that is safe and convenient for both parties. In-home respite providers drive directly to the child’s home, where the services take place (CFF requires that a parent/guardian drive the child to any community locations/events that the parent wants their child to participate in during respite).