How to Choose Respite Care for Children

If you’re the parent of a child with a disability, you know how challenging it is to find time for yourself. You would love to have a little time alone or with your spouse. But how do you find someone that you can trust to watch your child?  

Respite care is temporary care that provides parents with a much-needed break, allowing a qualified health professional to step into the role of caregiver instead. Here’s what you need to know to choose a trustworthy respite care provider.

Why You Need Respite Care

You spend a substantial amount of your time with your child providing them with the care they need. You might find it hard to consider letting someone else watch and care for your child, even for a short time.

Caring for a child with a disability requires a lot from you. You can only give so much before you feel mentally and physically exhausted and overwhelmed. Taking a periodic break is a necessity. Respite care gives you a chance to take care of yourself. After you recharge, you can continue providing your child with the care they need without burning out. 

Respite care can help in emergencies, allowing you to manage the situation while leaving your child in the hands of someone you can trust. 

And it can also teach your child important lessons, like learning to ask for help, learning how to make new friends, and learning to enjoy time with others. 


Types of Respite Care

Choosing respite care for your child starts with understanding the types of respite care available.

In-Home Respite Care

With in-home respite care, a caregiver comes into your home for a few hours daily, weekly or as needed. Depending on your needs, the services may continue overnight. Based on your comfort level, you may allow the caregiver to take your child out for a walk or to a local park. 

Outside Respite Care Services

You have a couple of options for outside respite care. It might be similar to a daycare, where you can drop your child off for a few hours each day, a few times a week or as needed. Or it might be like a sleepaway camp, where your child spends one or more nights away from home. 

Informal Respite Care

If you have a trusted family member or friend, you can ask them for help. You may also find a respite care “co-op,” a group of families that have children with special needs, with members of the group taking turns caring for each other's children.  

How to Choose Respite Care

Finding and choosing someone you can trust to take care of your child can feel overwhelming. Here are a few tips to help make the process easier:

Look for Local Services

When looking for respite care, look into local services. Some organizations like ARCH National Respite Network, Easter Seals and the Arc may be available in your area. You might also find local non-profits or professional organizations with an online search. 

Ask a Family Member or Friend

If you have a trusted friend or family member, you may consider asking them to watch your child for a few hours. You may need to provide them with some training to provide your child with the care they need while you’re away. 

Connect with Other Parents

Look for and connect with other parents in a similar situation. If they have used respite care services, you can ask for recommendations. 

Interview Potential Respite Care Providers

Before you bring anyone into your home to care for your child, conduct an interview first. You want to get to know the person who will be taking care of your child in your place. Some questions to ask include:

  • What experience do you have working with children with disabilities or special needs?
  • How would you handle this situation (provide a situation common with your child)?
  • Can you manage the specific needs of my child?
  • Would you feel comfortable taking my child out to the park or into the community?
  • Can you provide me with a list of references?


You might consider running a background check on any potential respite care providers before you hire them. Be sure to ask if the potential caregiver is comfortable with it before you do. 

Observe Caregiver

Even after an interview, you should observe a potential respite care provider before you hire them. Watch how the caregiver interacts with your child. You should feel completely comfortable with anyone you bring in before you leave them alone with your child.

How to Pay for Respite Care

Respite care can be expensive. Some organizations offer sliding scales, payment plans, or financial assistance programs. If you hire your own provider, you may discuss a set hourly wage. You may also find free options, such as a local church, family co-op, or family member. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 05, 2021



Autism Speaks: “Respite Care.”

Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing. “Respite Care Services for Children with Special Healthcare Needs: Parental Perceptions.”

Louisiana Department of Health: “Types of Respite Services.” “A Family Guide to Respite for Children in Michigan.”

Navigate Life Texas: “Connecting with Other Parents of Children with Disabilities.”

University of Cincinnati Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities: How to Pay for Respite.”

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