Respite care utilization by families caring for children with disabilities
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This explanatory study examined the factors that influence eligible families with children with developmental disabilities living at home to use respite care services. A cross-sectional survey design was used with a self-administered mail questionnaire comprised of standardized and non-standardized questions. A series of child, caregiver, and familial characteristics and psychosocial variables were tested against respite usage. The data were analyzed by SPSS 11.0 analyses using chi-squares and independent t-tests.;Slightly over a third of the 212 respondent caregivers reported that they used respite. Two-thirds of the sample reported that they did not use respite care, even though deemed eligible by state offices. While the majority of hypothesized relationships did not prove to be significant, the findings showed that the more knowledgeable caregivers were about the service and the more they perceived respite to be available, the more likely they were to use respite care. Additional analyses of the data revealed other important findings relating to social supports, empowerment levels, and the respite care preferences of caregivers utilizing and not utilizing the service. Respite users shared that they use respite for their child with disabilities to socialize and integrate with others, for relief from their caregiving responsibilities, and to tend to other family members or obligations.;The contributions and implications of this research for social work practitioners, policy makers, and professionals in the field of disabilities are highlighted. Caregiver families emphasized that outreach efforts, the dissemination of information, and increasing the availability and flexibility of the service to families can all help to increase utilization rates. Finally, future areas of research are indicated.