Fort Collins nonprofit provides care for youth with developmental disabilities

Camila Nadalet

Respite Care is a non-profit organization located on S. Lemay Street in Fort Collins. It provides short-term care for children to young adults anywhere between the ages of six weeks to 21 years. The organization is just like any other child-care organization, except they focus on caring for individuals with developmental disabilities.

Respite Care was founded by five parents of children with developmental disabilities in April of 1981. They knew the difficulties of having kids with disabilities and wanted to do something to help other parents in their same situation. In April of 1982, Respite Care began providing services and has been thriving ever since, currently serving over 140 families in Larimer County.

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According to Lauren Whynott, the Developmental Director at Respite Care, they “have a philosophy at Respite Care that children are children first and foremost, and any needs related to a developmental disability diagnosis are met within this context.”

With this in mind, the organization and its employees strive to create an atmosphere for their children that is suitable for growing, learning, establishing relationships and ultimately feeling safe.

Not only does Respite Care provide services for children with disabilities, but they are also simultaneously benefiting the parents and guardians of these children. The organization allows primary caregivers to drop off their children for care for anywhere from a couple of hours to two weeks. This allows parents and guardians to do things that they may not have time to do being a full-time caregiver such as going to school or sustaining a stable career.

In addition to the care services provided by Respite Care, they also incorporate field trips, special programs and seasonal activities like summer camps into their day to day happenings, giving the children a more individually enriching experience within the organization.

One major event put on by Respite Care every year is their Respite Care Holiday Ball. It is their largest fundraising event of the year, and has already sold out this year, with over 1,100 guests expected to be in attendance. The ball consists of live and silent auctions, music, dancing and much more.

Many businesses get themselves involved in the event, providing items for auction, as well as just giving general donations. The proceeds are a huge benefit to Respite Care, providing them with almost half of the annual funds used to be able to continue providing the services they offer.

While the major focus of Respite Care is on the individuals with developmental disabilities that they are caring for, their employees also reap the benefits of being a part of the Respite Care family. They are currently employing 42 individuals, a large majority of which are part-time and a good amount are going to school full-time as well.

Whynott began working at Respite Care as a student in the Human Development and Family Studies program at CSU. She says that there is really no single thing that she can pinpoint as the best part about working for the organization, but she comments on the feeling of unity that is created by all the individuals, children and employees at Respite Care.

“There is an incredible spirit at Respite Care that one immediately feels when visiting,” Whynott said. “Together, the kiddos, staff and volunteers all create this environment of acceptance, love and playfulness.”

A part-time employee of Respite Care and full-time student at CSU, Jake Bair, commented on one of his favorite things he sees working at Respite Care.

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“The best part about working with Respite is seeing the progress a child makes over time, especially when they were told that progress would most likely not be made,” Bair said.

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Photo courtesy of Respite Care

While working at Respite Care is not always easy or fun, employees love it nonetheless.

“Working at Respite has definitely challenged me and put me in difficult situations. What I have found though, is even on my bad days at work, I always can’t wait to come back,” said Alexandra Newton child care specialist at Respite Care and student at the University of Northern Colorado.

Respite Care has been so prosperous because of its continued support from the community combined with the Respite Care family’s unrelenting love for what they do.