Supportive Communities: Strengthening Families
The most frequently requested support by families who have children with special needs is respite, which is simply defined as the temporary relief of the care of a child with special needs.
Almost all families experience or seek temporary care of their children by others – from grandparents to babysitters to community clubs and activities. We do not refer to these experiences as “respite” because they are viewed as a normative and natural part of raising children, yet the outcome is the same: Parents are getting a break from their children. Extended family members and the community-at-large assume it is their responsibility to provide this support as it is to the advantage of families and the development of children.
However, two significant barriers have been identified for families of children with disabilities seeking similar respite opportunities:
1) The number of individuals willing to provide respite is declining in Alberta and families simply cannot locate sufficient, qualified respite support to meet their needs.
2) The number of community recreational, sports and cultural activities offering fully inclusive programming for all children is relatively sparse. This has created severely limiting options for families who wish to engage their children with disabilities in inclusive recreational activities.
Supportive Communities: Strengthening Families is attempting to remove these barriers from Alberta communities and promote awareness of how we can work together to improve supports and possibilities for children with disabilities.
The benefits of respite care are substantial and well documented. These include: sustaining the integrity of the family; strengthening the family; preventing family breakdown; reducing the risk of abuse and neglect in the home; and creating natural sustainable networks of support that extend beyond the child’s youth and into adulthood.
On an economic level, the cost associated with the provision of respite is trivial relative to the cost of services that must be provided to care for children outside their home as well as the economic loss incurred by families when parents are unable to work as a consequence of insufficient respite.
SPONSORS, PARTNERS AND REGIONAL FOCUS
Inclusion Alberta has partnered with the provincial Government’s Department of Child and Family Services in two regions of Alberta: Calgary and Area and East Central Region. We expect to expand our resources into other regions of the province as interest in the project grows.
If you have any questions about Supportive Communities: Strengthening Families project or if you would like more information on how to get involved, please contact one of the facilitators as listed below: