About Us

In August of 1997, I sat in an auditorium and watched a mother address the speaker who had opened the floor for discussion at the Florida’s first “official” Respite conference. What started with a soft voice then seemingly cracked through nerves until it completely shattered, leaving this frail woman standing before us sobbing for help through gasps of breath and a flood of tears that fell fiercely from her face, as her body uncontrollably shook. It stunned me, as well as a room filled with service providers, caregivers and officials from Florida’s Department of Children and Families.

Her exhausted demeanor was so alarming that the room turned immediately silent. We sat uncomfortable in our seats, as we listened and watched this poor woman’s anguish and plead for help. She was begging for caregiving assistance for her two autistic children. She had no other immediate family. Her husband had left her. She had no network of friends, as she had not time to build or maintain friendships. She had no work family, as she lost her job because she couldn’t keep a daycare that could handle two autistic children with the rest of their enrolled children and she had taken too much time off from work. Her rent was due, her electric was on the verge of being cut off, she wasn’t receiving any support or assistance, and she was at the bottom of her ability to keep gas in the car and food on the table. Each time she tried to identify and access some form of assistance, she was either told a different story or there was already a wait list that left no hope of even entertaining the idea of assistance. She was a woman, a single mother of two children with mental and emotional disabilities that had reached her wit’s end. She was desperate and it was recognized by everyone in the room as not a dry eye could be found. We saw her pain. We felt her pain and it pained us more because we knew how limited and unavailable the resources were to assist her.

That day was the genesis of the Florida Respite Coalition and 6 months after that day, a group of folks who pledged at that conference to come together and form an organization to bring awareness to the need for respite, to educate the general population about what respite is, the benefits of respite, the important role and economic contributions made and lost by caregivers, the types of respite programs, where to access respite care, and the fostering of the provision of respite care and the promotion of quality respite care services came to fruition and the Florida Respite Coalition was born.

I am fortunate enough to have been a part of that process from the first conference through to this day, as I’ve watched the Florida Respite Coalition launch its vision with money from the Department of Children and Families, to the sad day in June 2008 when we, as did many other social service programs, lose their funding during the years of our Great Recession. I have continued, along with the organization’s leadership, to meet monthly and continue to champion the cause of respite and the plight of caregivers.

As we journey toward our 20 year anniversary, I am renewed and thrilled to be a part of this next redevelopment stage of the organization that targets the delivery of resources to Caregivers, Respite Programs, legislators and a host of others who interact in the world of families and loved ones living and taking care of those who need short-term and on-going care. As we refocus our services to fit our financial capabilities, we remain hopeful for our vision of a full service respite organization that provides an up-to-date directory of available respite options and resources, offers quality training and technical assistance, fosters the development of respite programming, and generates enough revenue and donations to assist with financial stipends for respite services.

We invite you to join us in making this vision a reality. Over the next several months we will be adding to our website a bevy of information on respite and caregiving that also includes articles and tips on physical, mental, emotional and nutritional options. From recipes, to meet the caregivers, to shout outs-and calls-to-action, stay tuned for more to come; and better yet, contact us now to join us on this journey to 20 years and beyond.

Comments on this entry are closed.