ChildServe‘s Respite Program Earns National Award (Video)

Parent Talking to Child

(Watch) – The Thayer family of Des Moines interviewed with We Are Iowa to talk about the difference ChildServe Respite makes for their family.

ChildServe’s Respite program was recognized as an Innovative and Exemplary Respite Service for 2020 by the ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center. ChildServe Respite gives parents and caregivers assistance in the day-to-day care involved in raising a child with special healthcare needs.

“When you have a child with special healthcare needs, you can’t just call the babysitter down the street,” said Cindy Pommrehn, mother of a child with special healthcare needs who utilizes respite services. “That’s one of the reasons respite care is so important to our family – I know my child is in a safe environment I can trust, while my husband and I have the opportunity to get groceries or go to a movie.”

Children who receive respite services, either at home or in a group setting at the ChildServe campus in Johnston, live at home with their families. Respite services are often utilized to afford parents and caregivers time to run errands, care for other children or have an evening for themselves, while trained respite team members provide specialized medical care for the child with special healthcare needs.  

While the premise of respite is simple, to be a national leader in the industry is more complex – ChildServe Respite was one of seven programs nationwide to meet the stringent criteria to earn this distinction. By recognizing high-quality programs like ChildServe Respite, ARCH hopes to encourage the study, expansion and replication of such services. 

“ChildServe currently serves over 650 children and young adults throughout the state with the help of over 400 employees,” said Barb Williams, ChildServe Respite Service Manager. “We offer programs specially designed to meet the needs of the families we serve. In fact, ChildServe is one of only a few providers in the state of Iowa who provide group respite services for the entire weekend.”

As COVID-19 brought additional challenges for families raising children with special needs, access to respite care only increased in importance.

“Anytime families don’t have access to traditional supports like after school programs or summer camps, respite can help fill the gap for kids with special healthcare needs,” said Barb. “It’s so important to have a qualified caregiver available through ChildServe respite for when families need a break. We have taken a large number of precautions to help keep our employees and the kids we serve safe. I am proud of our team members who have helped bring a small sense of normalcy to families during an uncertain year through ChildServe Respite.”

ChildServe Respite provides care for children from birth to 25 years old with a wide range of diagnoses or needs, including physical disabilities, complex medical needs, autism and behavioral health concerns. Respite is provided in-home, at a ChildServe location, or may be held in the community, depending on the families’ requirements. Families can plan their respite services ahead of time, and emergency coverage is also available.

Thayer family of Des Moines depends on ChildServe Respite for support (Watch the interview).

For children like nine-year-old Kylar, ChildServe Respite is a place to have fun and enjoy being a kid. Kylar has a rare genetic mutation that causes seizures and abnormal brain development. At 14 months old, he underwent a right functional hemispherectomy to reduce the number of extensive, frequent seizures he had each day.

“The seizures themselves and the surgery thereafter wreaked havoc on Kylar’s brain, so he has severe cognitive delays causing him to be fully dependent on others,” said Cassidy Thayer, Kylar’s mom. “Every day I am his full-time caregiver, parent and friend. I am responsible for changing him, feeding him and keeping him entertained.”

For Kylar’s family, hiring a typical babysitter is unsafe due to his medical needs, so ChildServe respite offers one of the few times they can put aside their role of caregivers.

“Respite has been a saving grace for my sanity since Kylar was three years old,” Cassidy said. “It is also extremely important to the livelihood of our whole family. As Kylar gets older and is more physically challenging for family members, respite is the one place he can go that gives us an opportunity to recharge our batteries. We couldn’t be the caregivers and parents Kylar needs if we didn’t have the chance to refill our cups. Respite gives our family that chance.”

Watch: Thayer Family Interview with WOI


ChildServe improves the health and well-being of nearly 5,800 children each year through specialized clinical, home, and community-based programs and services. We serve children with developmental delays, disabilities, injuries, and other special healthcare needs.

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