Caregiving is the ultimate act of love, but sometimes the most loving thing to do is take a break. Respite care can provide occasional time away for caregivers to focus on their mental health and strengthen relationships with other loved ones. Here’s the best way to begin your search for appropriate care.

San Diego Regional Center

If your child has a developmental disability, the San Diego Regional Center (SDRC) can cover the cost of respite care. First, the child must be registered — register online at After intake, the family is assigned a service coordinator, who determines how many respite hours to award on either a quarterly or monthly basis. The number of hours varies and is based on the individual family’s situation (income is not a factor).

Once respite hours are awarded, the family can redeem them for in-home care or out-of-home care at a licensed facility. Most parents of minors opt for in-home care. The Regional Center works with a number of respite care agencies that are each responsible for screening their caregivers. If nursing care is needed, SDRC can provide services of a licensed vocational nurse. While it is necessary to register to receive free respite care, families need not participate in the organization’s other programs or services unless they so desire. However, according to Residential Services Manager, Wanda Bardwell, families do tend to find additional helpful resources through SDRC as their children grow.

What if We Don’t Qualify?

Even if families don’t meet requirements for free respite hours through San Diego Regional Center, the organization keeps a helpful list of qualified in-home and out-of-home respite care providers. Contact one near you to learn about services and rates:

One example is the Arc of San Diego, which offers in-home care for children and adults, as well as overnight group care (for adults only) at an outside facility. Rates are $22 per hour for those not affiliated with SDRC, or for families who need more hours than the center has awarded.

How to Pay for Care

Specialty care can be costly, but Bardwell recommends contacting the YMCA Childcare Referral line at 800-481-2151 to speak with an expert about your unique situation. These specialists are knowledgeable about resources and programs throughout the county that could help mitigate the cost of care.

While most insurance companies don’t cover respite care, it’s worth calling to confirm. Respite care expenses are not eligible for reimbursement through Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA).

Call 2-1-1 to request information about respite services in your area. Staff can also help identify organizations that provide financial assistance, so be sure to ask how and when to apply for funds to cover care. Know that if your application is denied by a government-funded program, you have the right to appeal.

Anne Malinoski is a contributing writer and mother of two boys. Her older sibling has special needs.