About Us

In October 2005 MCYS convened Task Group on Respite Services and Supports for Children and Youth. It was recognized that one of the best ways of supporting children and youth is to protect their families’ resiliency to care for their children and youth. The membership of the group consisted of representation from parents, child welfare, agencies providing services to children with dual diagnosis, coordinated access services, Special Services at Home coordinating agencies, Community Care Access Centres, children’s treatment centres, developmental service providers, respite networks, and Ministries including education, long term care, social services and children and youth services who provided a broad range of perspectives regarding respite.

A significant outcome of the task group included a common understanding of how to define respite and a vision for the delivery of respite services in the South West Region.

As well, the development of a regional service model consisting of 9 Local Respite Networks (LRNs) was implemented. The LRN’s are responsible for the delivery of respite services in the South West Region to children and youth with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. To ensure a comprehensive respite support system the LRNs have representation from respite service providers and community partners specializing in the provision of supports to children and youth with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder as well as children and youth with varying abilities and needs.

The regional network strives to ensure their services and supports reflect the values and guiding principles defined in the document ‘An Ideal Model for Children and Youth Services in the South West Region -Respite Services and Supports”.

Values and Guiding Principles

  • Ensure the safety and well-being of children;
  • Easy, equitable & timely access for all customers
  • Provide access to a balanced range of services that are family-focused, located in their communities, close to their homes as possible;
  • Keep children and  youth in their homes through the use of the least intrusive, most effective service deemed appropriate, and minimize the use of residential services;
  • Ensure that services are co-ordinated and remain accountable to the child, youth, adult and families;
  • Require integration of services, collaboration, use of multi-disciplinary strategies across the entire spectrum of child, youth, adult and family service systems;
  • Ensure system co-ordination within local and regional communities;
  • Respond to the uniqueness of each community and child on existing services, initiatives and strengths therein.


The Vision
‘A high quality integrated system of children and youth services that is easily accessible and accountable to children, youth, and their families.’

The final result of their work was the creation of the report, “An Ideal Model for Children and Youth Services in the South West Region, Respite Services & Supports”. (September 2006)

networkdiagram Grey Bruce LRN London/Middlesex LRN Huron LRN Chatham-Kent LRN Perth LRN Oxford LRN Elgin LRN Sarnia-Lambton LRN Windsor-Essex LRN Regional Coordination


The regional coordinator/network role is responsible, in collaboration with local coordinators/networks for coordination and planning of respite services and supports across the South West Region.


Why Focus On Respite

"Supporters of respite care have long argued that it can benefit the whole family, but there has been little research into the matter in the field of children's mental health. Generally, researchers have reported a positive impact on caregiving burden but little or no effect on child outcomes. A wide range of possible outcomes of respite care, including improvements in child and family functioning, lessening of caregiver strain, and better service usage, were examined in a study by Bruns and Burchard (2000). Only one statistically significant relationship was found with regard to child functioning: Families who received respite care reported that their children had fewer community externalizing behaviours (police contact, truancy, suicide attempts, or alcohol/drug use), and because of low incidence of these behaviours, even this relationship was suspect. Regardless, the researchers framed this piece of analysis in Perspective 4 [Caregiver Characteristics as Mediators], postulating that intervention targeting the caregiver would have positive and measurable effects on the child. (Pp112-113)

... positive outcomes within the family system are valued whether there is any change in the child's symptoms, behaviour, living situation, educational progress, or legal status. For this perspective, the condition of the child with a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder can remain static or decline without affecting the value of the family outcomes. What is important is that the family, while maintaining the child in the home and community, can effectively work and thrive as any other family would.

Bruns and Burchard (2000) published a controlled longitudinal study of the short-term impact of respite care on families of children with mental and emotional disorders. The outcomes measured included a variety of family-related variables (perceived need for future out-of-home placement and crises intervention, family functioning, caregiving stress, and parents' general). They also included measures of service use (actual use of out-of-home placement, crisis intervention), as well as child behaviour.  Families who received respite care services were significantly less likely to need out-of-home placement for their child and reported less personal strain of caregiving than did families who did not receive respite care. " (pp 114 )
Multiple Perspectives on Family Outcomes in Children's Mental Health
Friesen, Pullman, Koroloff, and Rea pp 101 - 124 in Outcomes for Children and Youth with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 2nd Edition Epstein Kutash, Duchnowski


Children and youth may have chronic, life-long special needs but by providing respite services to their care-giving families, they are more likely to remain within the family context and closer to the ideal context within which they might reach their potential.

Generally the provision of respite services is less costly than the provision of residential care or treatment services.  Greater appropriate use of respite services and supports may free up resources currently invested in residential services for strategic and more effective investment in other parts of the children and youth services system.