Sunday, December 10, 2006

Family Respite Care Bill Approved by Congress

A bill that should benefit families who live with and care for a person with autism won approval during the lame duck session in Congress last week. The bill, called the Lifespan Respite Care Act, is designed to help family caregivers who provide daily care to loved ones with disabilities or chronic conditions.

The bill, which requires President Bush's signature, authorizes $289 million during five years for states to train volunteers and provide other services to help an estimated 50 million families who are caring at home for an adult or child with a disability, according Rep. Mike Ferguson, a New Jersey Republican, who was one of the bill's sponsors. Ferguson posted a press release on his website about the bill.

The federal legislation would let states apply for grants from the Department of Health and Human Services to set up respite care programs. It's modeled after similar programs in Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon and Wisconsin, according to The Autism Society of America. The Society was one of the advocacy groups lining up behind this proposal in Congress and posted a statement praising its passage.

As parents and other family members know, it is not enough to line up educational and other services for a person with autism. Caregivers need regular breaks from the action to maintain a healthy attitude, to remain the rocks of support they need to be. The Autism Society release included this interesting passage:
Research indicates that families of children with autism have greater parental stress due to challenges in caring for their children. Because of the additional care required by a child with autism, families identify respite care as a basic need, with the need increasing as the child gets older. Families who report less stress usually are the recipients of formal family support services, such as respite care.

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