Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

Finding Relief Through Respite Care
Temporary Respite is a Welcome Support for Parents of Children with Special Needs

by Carrie Bishop

February 01, 2011

If it takes a village to raise a child, what does it take to raise a child with special needs? Possibly a village and frequent doses of respite care.

Respite care by definition is the temporary relief from the duties of caring for a loved one with special needs. Melanie Ulloa of Greenwood defines it more along the lines of “godsend” and “lifesaver.” Ulloa is raising four children, two of whom have special needs. She is tapping into a couple area respite resources including Easter Seals Crossroads and Huser HomeCare. Both add tremendous peace of mind to her life.

Regardless of one’s budget, Easter Seals Crossroads is a resource all families with special needs children should check into. Their services are trusted, purposeful and free to anyone in the Indianapolis community thanks to Lilly Endowment. The organization’s respite program aims to provide rest and relaxation for parents and caregivers of kids, teens and adults with special needs.

“I love Easter Seals. They have always been there. Anytime I needed anything, they’ve always been there to do their best to help me out in whatever situation,” Ulloa says. She is among the believers in the organization’s Parents’ Night Out program.

Parents’ Night Out is for kids with special needs and their typically developing siblings ages 6 months to 12 years old. Kids arrive at 6 p.m. The night is run by a team leader who divides the kids into groups either by age or diagnosis. There is always a craft, snack, free time and movie for the participants. The staff and adult volunteers at these events tend to be social workers or college students who are focused on occupational therapy, speech therapy or physical therapy. The ratio of staff to participant is 1:3.

Teens age 13 to 17 can participate in the organization’s Teen Night Out program, which is done in conjunction with Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation. Teens are invited to the Monon Community Center where they can swim, play games, do crafts, eat a pizza snack, and interact with peers. “They are just in love with it and they have such a great time there,” says Joelle Ogle, respite program manager for Easter Seals Crossroads, of the attendees.

Above and beyond the time these programs give to parents, Easter Seals Crossroads also provides a program called ParentCare Services, which essentially helps pay for mom and dad’s night out on the town while their children take advantage of the fun Easter Seals programming. Ogle says parents usually receive a $50 gift card to a local restaurant or movie theater most months that can be used during the time their child is in one of these programs. Parents can learn more about ParentCare upon registering their child for Parents’ Night Out. Really, what parent couldn’t use a little time and money?

Easter Seals Crossroads obviously serves Hoosiers of all ages. The respite program for individuals 18 and older is dubbed CHEER for Creating Healthy Environments and Enjoying Recreation. This service offers scheduled social events for the adults with special needs that also afford their caregivers a well-deserved break.

In addition to these organized events and outings, Easter Seals Crossroads offers one-on-one respite for parents and caregivers of medically fragile children. This in-home care is available up to eight hours per month, and like the other programs, is free.

“I’d say they are pretty much a lifesaver. It honestly gives me peace of mind knowing I can trust them, knowing they do what I ask them to do. It’s honestly just a relief to know I actually have someone I can count on and someone I can trust,” Ulloa says of Easter Seals Crossroads.

In addition to this community organization, Ulloa uses respite services provided by Huser HomeCare. Her oldest son receives 32 hours of the agency’s in-home care per week and Ulloa says, “they have been a godsend. They come and do all things I would do like change his diaper, play with him, offer assistance.”

In its third year, Huser HomeCare provides non-medical home care assistance for clients who are currently between the ages of 5 and 98 and require anywhere from two to four hours of care per week to around-the-clock care.

Terry Huser, vice president of Huser HomeCare and Easter Seals Crossroads board member, says respite care is a must. And he speaks from experience. Huser and his wife Kathy are parents of 10, five of whom have a special need of one kind or another.

He says they have always been blessed with a large network of family, friends and neighbors who have provided respite for he and his wife. “We recognize the need to get away. Our goal is to get some evenings [to ourselves] and a weekend away once or twice a year, even if it’s just going to a hotel in downtown Indianapolis for the weekend...We’ve had an outstanding support network, and without them, we’d have been nuts. A lot of people say God doesn’t give more than you can handle, but I say if ‘you’ is singular, that’s crazy. If ‘you’ is plural, then it’s a true statement.” There is just so much pressure on parents of children with special needs.

It’s this personal understanding of respite that has led the couple to found Huser HomeCare. “It’s a mission-driven business,” Huser says. The two are also opening a second respite care agency called Huser SpecialCare, which is being established specifically for individuals with developmental disorders or autism.

Like Ulloa, Huser praises Easter Seals’ Parents’ Night Out program. He says that, for many parents, this night out will be the first time they’ve ever left their child with someone. He says consider the age of their child with special needs. If he or she is 5, then the parents likely hasn’t been out alone in 5 years. “It’s just not healthy for mind or body for parents to have to continually focus on kids. They just need some re-creation and renewal,” he says.

Thank goodness there are a few good services around that can step up and provide quality and much-needed respite care.

Carrie Bishop is a freelance writer and mother of two young sons whose daily antics inspire her work and her life. Contact her at