For Better or Worse: Two Branches Change Respite Childcare Programs for Special Needs Families

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Thousands of special needs families are dealing with recent changes to Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) Respite Childcare policies. Each Service sets their own standards and eligibility criteria for the Respite program, but the Army and Air Force recently changed their criteria.

EFMP Respite was originally established to help special needs families deal with increased deployment tempo related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The program was designed to give non-deployed parents of special needs children time to take care of themselves to prevent caregiver burn-out. Caregiver burnout is defined as physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that often leads to a change in attitude -- from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned.  

The Air Force has increased their monthly allowance for respite care from 12 to 40 hours—a much needed bump. And while there have been some issues with implementation, Air Force families are hopeful. Meanwhile, the Army has decreased available respite from 40 hours to 25 hours a month and also tightened eligibility restrictions.

“Our concern is that deployment status isn’t a consideration under the new Army EFMP Respite rules”, said Karen Ruedisueli, Deputy Director of Government Relations at NMFA. “The whole point was to provide support to families impacted by deployment tempo. Giving families who need help less help just doesn’t make sense—especially when the impact of deployments hasn’t changed for families still experiencing them.”

The Army’s new rules state category III or IV EFMP families will be eligible for respite childcare, and the level of care depends on the severity of the condition. And unlike the Navy’s program… trained respite providers will only care for the eligible dependent—no siblings. The revised criteria also mean families of children with autism—even the most severe cases—will not be eligible for respite.

While service members are still deploying regularly, most Services have been pulling back on deployment support programs which may compromise family readiness in the future. Have you been impacted by these changes? We’d like to know what barriers you’ve encountered when trying to access EFMP respite.

Posted October 12, 2017


From: Teresa on: October 26, 2017
I was unable to access respite via the Air Force because I had an older sibling that was “of caretaking age,” over 12. It would have been irresponsible at best to leave a 12 yr old with ADHD in charge of a complex multi disabled 7 yr old.
From: brenna on: October 24, 2017
if you don't live AT or NEAR the base you don't rate anything. we're geo bachelor, no family near, LON 4. we only get respite if we live there. haven't been able to utilize it for 8 years since there were no providers at the last base either.
From: Jaime Burnside on: October 20, 2017
Ive applied to be a caregiver and would love to help families
From: Lenae on: October 12, 2017
This program doesn’t help even if you have a cat 4! I have 3 cat 4 children and their are no providers here willing to watch them and they won’t approve. Family member to provide care either so the rules don’t help anyone and my husband just got back from his 7 deployment!
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