Respite Care: Outcomes for Kinship and Non-Kinship Caregivers

Author(s): Owens-Kane, Sandra (2007)

Published In: Journal of Health & Social Policy, 22 (3/4): 85-99

Study Aim/Purpose: This study, conducted “in a large urban area of a western state” sought to examine the outcomes associated with use of formal respite care services by kinship, foster, and adoptive caregivers of children with special needs involved in the child welfare system. 

Summary of Methods: The study involved 71 adult kinship caregivers, adoptive, foster/adoptive and foster caregivers who completed a pre and post respite questionnaire by mail or telephone. The pre-respite instrument included “original questions and standardized measures obtained from previously published studies related to caregiving, family satisfaction, and quality of life and anticipated benefits of respite care.” The post-respite instrument included most of the questions and additional items related to perceived benefits and impact of respite care. 

Summary of Key Results: The majority of caregivers reported reduced stress, increased time for attending to their own health needs, improved positive attitude toward their children, and significantly decreased feelings of objective burden after receiving respite care. Caregivers also reported a significant increase in “feeling at ease and supported” after participating in respite. While most caregivers reported feeling frustrated about caring for their special needs child prior to respite care, they were significantly less frustrated after receiving respite care. At the same time, the authors found that caregivers felt less equipped to care for their child after receiving respite care and there was a statistical reduction in the number of caregivers who perceived that their family members got along well.

Study Limitations (as cited by authors): The author notes that her study’s findings on effects were limited due to the lack of a comparison group of caregivers who did not receive respite care. They also pointed to the lack of standardized scales measuring outcomes such as caregiver depression levels and other psychiatric symptoms of the caregivers. 

Author’s Discussion/Conclusions: The author concludes that “respite care is a viable intervention to use in future efforts at recruitment and retention of caregivers of children in substitute care.” They also suggest that the findings, such as caregivers feeling unequipped in their caregiving role, point to the need to link respite “to other services such as positive or effective parenting courses, concrete services and empowerment techniques.” They further highlight a need to “secure respite funding, provide high quality respite care, evaluate respite service empirically, and widely disseminate the evaluation findings for future enhancement and replication of respite care services” for this population.