Military Families Thank Their Respite Child Care Providers

May 03, 2022

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As we approach Provider Appreciation Day® (May 6, 2022) we are highlighting how communities are honoring the contributions of their child care providers. Sign up to be a supporter and get resources to plan your celebration. 

Child care providers are an instrumental partner for families, creating a space that contributes to the overall family well-being and furthering the development of children. For military families, the role of child care providers goes even further by serving as a key element in their adaptability and readiness to meet each new mission, wherever it takes them. For families who are full-time caregivers to a child with special needs, child care providers often exceed the expectations of the role, ensuring an inclusive, developmental environment for each child as well as time for parents to rejuvenate. What most civilians may not know is that the respite child care providers participating in Navy Exceptional Family Member (EFM) Respite Care strive to fulfill every one of these roles for the Navy families they serve.  

Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC), Child & Youth Programs (CYP) understands that caring for children with special needs is a full-time job for parents that can be physically and emotionally challenging. In 2008, CNIC CYP contracted with Child Care Aware® of America (CCAoA) to develop and administer Exceptional Family Member (EFM) Respite Care, a no-cost benefit for eligible Navy families throughout the United States. This opportunity provides for families 40 hours of respite care per month from a trained and background-screened provider. Respite child care allows parents the opportunity to rest and rejuvenate with peace of mind, knowing their children are well cared for.  

CCAoA works with Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) agencies and other community organizations to recruit, train, screen and provide technical assistance to child care programs and individuals providing respite care for Navy families. Respite care providers can provide care in the family’s home, child care centers or licensed family child care homes; however, the majority of families elect to work with in-home respite care providers due to the comfort of care for both the parent and the child. 

For over 12 years, participating respite care providers have shown their commitment to_thumb_46305-1 the roles of child care provider, Navy family support and specialized caregiver. Yet, over the last two years of the pandemic, they have continued to exceed expectations and proven their unwavering dedication to Navy families by maintaining a level of quality care for those who needed it most.  

To celebrate these dedicated providers this year, we asked the families who rely on them about their experiences, and this is what they said: 

Navy Family in Jacksonville, FL – When we first started respite care in 2021, I had a brand-new baby and a deploying husband, as well as a 3-year-old with special needs. Even if I didn't work full-time (which I do), I would have needed an extra set of hands. Ever since we were approved for respite care, I've consistently used almost all our hours, planning a month ahead to make sure it works. I have used the respite time to shower, run errands or work, and cook. Most importantly, I've used them to exist sanely and keep everyone else's worlds operating smoothly. 

Our respite care providers have become family. I invite them to my children's birthday parties, bake them cookies, and rely on them more than I do my own extended family. They have helped empower me to be all that I can be by focusing on other tasks and duties, instead of just surviving.  My marriage has thrived [because of these providers]. I’ve been able to focus on my spouse and my other child. I've been able to create more of a bond as a mother instead of just a caretaker. 

Thank you to each of our respite care providers. You have empowered me to be an even better version of myself. 

To our respite provider Katy, who has been with us for over one year: 

Katy, you were there when I brought Isaac's baby brother home from the hospital, there by our side when we took Isaac trick or treating for the first time in his adaptive costume, helped us with Isaac so he could participate in Christmas cookie making, supported me the day Isaac got his autism diagnosis and I needed a listening ear, and are the most dependable person that's not family that we know. Thank you for helping us give Isaac a joyous and inclusive life. We love you! 

Navy Family in Washington, D.C. – Our respite provider is a godsend who has a true gift of acceptance, patience and love. She helps us reinforce physical and occupational therapy exercises. Our daughter seems to accept the at-home exercises from her more than mommy or daddy. This allows her to continue progressing with her walking and use of her hand. Additionally, it allows us to spend one-on-one time with our other child.   

When my husband was away on assignment, she helped me keep my sanity by helping with bath time and bedtime.  

I would like to send so much love and appreciation to Celina and tell her that she has become part of the family. We truly have been able to make so much physical and emotional progress because of your love and hard work. Couldn’t do it without you. Thank you. 

Navy Family in Jacksonville, FL We love our respite care provider and have been so thankful for having this service. This was one of the reasons I tried extending on active duty so we could continue to use this. 

Navy Family in Lake Stevens, WAI have not been able to use respite until recently due to health issues and COVID-19 cautions (new baby). But now we have a provider who can focus on the needs of [our] EFM, so now [we] can get some much-needed breaks and rest. This has helped us focus on caring for our new baby, while our son is still being interactive and cared for. We have a provider that we feel confident is meeting the unique challenges of our EFM, so we can count on them. 

Navy Family in Yulee, FLTowana has been a blessing to our family. She came into our lives when I was at my worst. My husband was deployed, and I was going through the start of my own medical battle. I was exhausted and just diagnosed with depression and my house was upside down. Being a parent with special needs children is nothing new for any of us in the program, but having medical concerns of my own was making daily living exhausting on top of caring for my autistic son. I desperately needed a break and in walked Towana, a bright shining star who melded perfectly with our family. 

It's often difficult for families to utilize respite care to its full capacity. I felt the need at first to go grocery shopping alone and do all those things typical families do. I guess I wanted to feel typical, but this wasn’t helping me at all, and Towana again came to my rescue and reminded me that I could be in the house while she was there. I could nap in my own bed or watch a movie and she could take the kids out back to play. This was the hardest obstacle for me, staying in the home with someone else watching my kids. When I finally let all reservations go, it was the miracle I needed to give myself those much-needed breaks to rejuvenate and get back in touch with myself and bring myself back into a healthy mindset. I could not have done this without her support and knowing my children were in safe hands. 

Towana does such an amazing job with my kiddos; she steps in in the areas my body can’t anymore. She’s on the ground doing chalk art and tie-dye and all sorts of fun activities. My kids have yet to miss celebrating Mother’s Day or Father’s Day with a handmade card thanks to Towana. She also put together a binder with pictures for the holidays of the kids doing amazing things. I am beyond blessed to have her be part of our family, because after all these years, she is part of our family. 

If there is an opportunity to put a spotlight on an amazing respite caregiver, Towana deserves it hands-down 

The historical bond between Navy families and their respite child care providers, as well as the recent effort of providers to continue to provide respite care during the pandemic, cannot be underscored enough. The hard work, dedication and immense value these child care providers bring to families is highlighted here today, but present in the homes of families each and every time they provide care. With the utmost appreciation, thank you! 

Plan your Celebration

Inspired to plan your Provider Appreciation Day ® celebration? Sign up to be a supporter and get resources for your celebration. 

Andrew Coates

Written by Andrew Coates

Andrew R. Coates Director, EFM Respite Care; Child Care Aware® of America Andrew Coates has been with Child Care Aware® of America (CCAoA) since 2014, joining to work with the Exceptional Family Member (EFM) Respite Care Team. During the last eight years, he helped administer and evolve the military respite care programs through various policy developments, expanding partnerships, and coordinating program operations through direct service to families and in partnership with over 50 organizations. Andrew’s commitment to quality, accessible child care for children with disabilities and special care needs extends beyond his work with CCAoA, as he has volunteered with the Arlington County Child Care Initiative and Easterseals’ local weekend respite care program.