TICONDEROGA - State Sen. Betty Little once asked JoAnne M. Caswell, executive director of Families First in Essex County, Inc., her opinion of what was one of the biggest needs in Essex County for families who have children with special needs.
Her response was quick and easy - respite.
Recently the senator secured a $200,000 grant to provide respite for families and training for providers. The grant was divided by population numbers across the six counties, with Essex County receiving $24,300.
The money came to Essex County via the Essex County Community Services Board. Director Nicole P. Bryant recommended to the Board that Families First oversee the distribution of these funds as they had experience in providing respite services and in training providers.
So in April Caswell advertised the availability of the services through the Essex County Child Serving System. Within days, she had providers calling saying they had families in need.
In addition, much to her surprise, people were asking to be trained to become respite providers. Eleven new respite providers were trained and most will stay on and work with Families First providing respite after the grant is completed.
Many of these people are staff members with ACAP - Head start.
Within a month 31 families had signed up to receive services throughout the months of June, July and August. At that point Caswell had to start turning families away and put a cap on the numbers served so as not to dilute the services to a level that would not be beneficial.
As of the end of September, 31 families with 57 children have received 1,211 hours of respite, utilizing $18,665 of the $24,300 grant. Respite services will continue to be offered until the remaining $5,635 of the grant is used.
"This service has been a great help in providing families in Essex County a break, especially over the summer months when school is not in session," Caswell said. "We would like to thank Sen. Little for her understanding of the need and her hard work in obtaining this grant."