Respite Care:

Insights on Federal, State, and Private Sector Involvement

T-HRD-89-12: Published: Apr 6, 1989. Publicly Released: Apr 6, 1989.

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GAO discussed the nature of national association and federal involvement in state-administered respite care programs, focusing on the extent of respite care research and evaluation in five states. GAO found that: (1) respite care was targeted to parents of disabled children, foster children, and unemployed parents to provide temporary relief to parents who were under high levels of stress, in order to prevent abuse and neglect and support family unity; (2) local chapters of national organizations provided most respite care services, while federal involvement consisted mostly of grants; (3) the Department of Health and Human Services has awarded 47 respite care grants totalling $6.5 million since 1983; (4) of the military services, the Army had the most formal family support programs; (5) 19 of the 24 programs surveyed in the 5 states received 99 percent of their funding from the states; (6) although Massachusetts and Indiana had comparable numbers of children under 18 and handicapped, Massachusetts spent about $18.5 million on respite care while Indiana spent only $1.1 million; (7) most of the programs had no income ceilings for eligibility, targeted mostly families with mentally retarded children, and provided services at no charge to eligible recipients; and (8) there was little research on respite care's effects on reducing stress or child abuse and neglect. GAO believes that the programs need to: (1) work toward a common respite care service definition; and (2) uniformly collect, analyze, and report information on the services provided, respite families, and costs.

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