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Reprinted from reACH issue 3, 2011.

by Mark Heilman, ACH In-Home Respite Services Coordinator

Respite care is the provision of short-term, temporary relief to parents who are caring for children with significant needs such as behavioral disorders, mental illness, or physical or developmental handicaps.

In-home Respite staff and family

Even though most parents take great joy in providing care to their children, for some families the physical, emotional and financial consequences for the parents can be overwhelming without some support, such as respite. Respite provides a much-needed, temporary break from the often-exhausting challenges faced in caring for children with extraordinary needs.

Without respite, not only can families suffer economically and emotionally, but parents themselves may face serious health and social risks as a result of stress associated with continuous caregiving. Respite care has been shown to help sustain parent health and well-being, avoid or delay out-of-home placements, and reduce the likelihood of abuse and neglect. An outcome-based evaluation pilot study has shown that respite care may also reduce the likelihood of divorce and help sustain marriages.

ACH’s In-Home Respite program provides temporary, planned relief, parenting skills education and support for parents of special needs children, individualized strengths-based goal-driven service planning for children, and collaborative development of natural systems of long-term support for families. The objectives of the program are to promote family preservation, assist in improvement of child behaviors, and strengthen and support family functioning. The program is responsive to families’ unique cultural characteristics and empowers them to respond based on their strengths.

Some of those that have found a desperately needed breather, support, and new insights into managing their parental role through ACH’s In-Home Respite program have included great-grandparents raising their three great-grandchildren, an adoptive mom following hip surgery, foster parents with sibling groups transitioning into their home, and parents struggling to raise special needs children with severe emotional disorders.

Jessica is an Arlington mother of five who is currently benefiting from ACH’s In-Home Respite program. The following is Jessica’s account of how this service has helped their family.


My son Rico was diagnosed with ADHD at age 2. And although he is now 5 and a sweet little boy, he has plenty of energy to drive me nuts! I experienced years of struggling, lack of sleep, and physical limitations. Sleeping four hours a day was taking a huge toll on my life and my other children’s lives. As the 27-year-old mother of five children ages 1-10, I found myself totally overwhelmed by my responsibilities. I do my best to take care of things on my own while my husband is working fulltime, but I had anxiety attacks, and I just wasn’t able to function as a mother and wife anymore.

I finally decided to look for help, and was referred to the ACH In-Home Respite. Our first meeting was amazing! ACH really understood my concerns and needs, and they have met every one of them from the beginning. The ACH staff come to my home and take the kids to parks and other fun places. They have helped me to understand and respond to Rico’s behavior and his limitations, and while they are gone for three or four hours, I finally get a chance to sleep. Wes, Amy and Garrett (In-Home Respite staff) are excellent, and they work so great with my kids! They are very kind and non-judgmental, and you can tell that they love their job and take pride in what they do.

We recently had our first family outing, and ACH made it possible for us all to go to the Fort Worth Zoo, with the In-Home Respite staff helping with our children. It was great! My husband and I finally got a chance to enjoy ourselves and spend quality time with the kids without running around in circles. I’ve had so many issues taking them to public places, but now it has been getting easier for me to take them out in public.

I deeply appreciate all that ACH has done for me and my family. Being more rested, I have started to study so that I can work in social services. I am learning so much being in the In-Home Respite program, and I thank ACH for helping me get my life back on track.

Learn. Advocate. Give.


  • Respite services directly promote the preservation and strengthening of marriages in families caring for a dependent family member.
  • 37% of all caregivers had been or were separated or divorced, with 32% stating that care of a dependent family member contributed to the separation or divorce. Only 6% of caregivers had separated or divorced since receiving respite
  • Married caregivers rated their spousal relationships as “moderately strained” prior to respite. After respite, spousal stress was reduced to “slightly strained” and the difference was statistically significant.
  • 15% of families had placed dependent family members in out-of-home care prior to receiving respite. Only 3% had placed family members in out-of-home care since receiving respite


Encourage caregivers to seek out in-home respite that meets the developmental and safety needs of their children!

Become a respite provider for someone you know caring for a high- or special-needs child!


Support ACH!

Donate Attraction/Event Tickets: Tickets to local events and attractions are a great way for In-Home Respite staff to give parents a break and the children a treat!

Make a monetary contribution to ACH: $75 provides two hours of respite care for parents in need!

Download the current issue of reACH Magazine.

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