ST. GEORGE – Registration for a new program called “Friday’s Kids Respite” will launch Saturday at The Learning Center in St. George. The program was founded in in 2001, offered only in northern Utah until now, and is specifically designed for special needs children and their families, providing for a much needed night off, or respite, for the parents and caregivers thereby strengthening the families.
This program offers a free, one-of-a-kind experience for special-needs children and qualifying families who meet certain criteria, set forth below. Once it has kicked-off, it will be offered the third Friday of every month.
Parents drop off their kids at 6 p.m. and check in with the nurse, the children are then paired individually with a volunteer for one-on-one supervision, and finally, they play. Parents and caregivers are free to go, then return at 9:30 p.m. to pick up their kids. Volunteers remain until about 9:45 p.m.
Saturday’s introduction of the program invites eligible families and volunteers to The Learning Center at 2044 Mesa Palms Drive in St. George, for registration, and a one-time Saturday night respite kicking-off the program.
“This program is extremely important for parents, children and volunteers,” Director Christine Passey said. “It gives parents a date night with a sense of relief that they know their child is being taking care of … You’d be amazed how much just one night off improves the parents’ outlook.”
A nurse is on site to take care of any medical or behavioral problems. At the St. George location, Jaci Whitehead, who has been working with Friday’s Kids Respite in Orem since March 2012, will be the on-staff registered nurse.
“What makes our program different is that we keep a nurse on staff and offer one-on-one volunteer services,” Passey said. “Each volunteer is paired with one child with disabilities. We have had such great participation in northern Utah with a lot of our volunteers coming from the universities, BYU and UVU, that we usually have more volunteers than we do children.”
Volunteers are needed and may be as young as 12 years old – minors will need parental consent.
“Sometimes the volunteers are nervous because they are unsure how to play with a special-needs child,” Passey said. “But they find out quickly that they just play the same as other kids.”
The state’s Division of Services for People with Disabilities, is the only other program offered for specialized care, Passey said. Yet, the service that is offered by that department does not have a drop-off location, they come to the house. The Friday’s Kids Respite program gets kids out of the house. It’s vital for children with special needs to get out of the house and have time away from the parents, she said.
“When children with disabilities are allowed time away from home,” Passey said, “it gives them a certain sense of independence that helps them thrive.”
“In every community there are children with special needs,” Whitehead said. “Our biggest barrier is getting the word out to those families that this type of program is available.”
Eligibility requirements listed on the program website include the following:
- Must have a diagnosis of a special health care need or disability
- Must be experiencing developmental problems which make it significantly difficult to get adequate care through regular means
- Must not be able to be home alone for two or more hours at a time
- Must not have a tracheotomy, be on 100 percent oxygen, or be excessively medically fragile – Friday’s Kids Respite determines if a child is too medically fragile based on the limits of our liability insurance and the professional judgment of a Friday’s Kidss Respite nurse (Please contact us if your not sure if your child is too medically fragile)
- Must not have a history of sexually inappropriate or aggressive behavior
- Must be able to be at respite until around 9:30pm without it significantly disturbing child’s bedtime routine
- Cannot already have resources or support that provides them with two or more weekend nights off a month from caregiving their child with special needs.
The Daniels Fund allowed the funding for further expansion of this program, and there are many other donors for the program as well. Currently there are three locations in Utah County that offer services through Friday’s Kids Respite, Orem, Lehi and Salem. St. George will be the fourth location in Utah and the next is projected to place in Salt Lake County.
- Apply online
- Apply in person on Saturday, starting at 5:45 p.m. at The Learning Center, 2044 Mesa Palms Drive in St. George
- Run 4 Kids fundraiser for The Learning Center for Families
- The Learning Center for Families celebrates 20 years, party in Town Square; STGnews Photo Gallery
- Helping ‘kiddos’ with delayed development
- Strengthening organizations that strengthen communities; Utah Nonprofits Association networking event
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