Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Respite Care Definition


Respite Care reduces caregiver stress, promotes the well-being and safety of care recipients, and contributes to stable families.


Respite Care programs provide temporary relief to caregivers with responsibility for the care and supervision of adults or children who: have physical, emotional, developmental, cognitive, behavioral, or mental health disabilities; are at risk of abuse or neglect; or are in foster care.

Respite Care is provided in a supportive, enriching, and therapeutic environment, in the caregiver’s home, in the service provider’s home, in a program facility, or in the community. Services can be provided on a planned or as needed basis, including in response to a crisis. Families experiencing medical emergencies and stressful home situations, such as domestic violence or homelessness, may request crisis nursery respite care. Generally, care is provided for a few hours or days at a time. Crisis nursery and short-term residential respite services can extend to a few weeks or a month at a time. When services are provided in response to a crisis, the timeframes may be less predictable and dependent upon resolution of the crisis. Respite care providers can include employees, independent contractors, volunteers and foster parents.

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Note: In the field of Adult Services, the term “respite services” often refers to an array of respite services that includes respite care in the person’s home or in a facility (PA-RC), in home care and support services (PA-HCS), medical or social day programs (PA-AD), adult foster care (PA-AFC), group living (PA-GLS) and residential respite services (PA-RC).

Note: When an organization is completing the Child and Family Services Standards (PA-CFS) their respite program is covered under PA-CFS 30: Respite Care for Children in Out-of-Home Care unless they provide respite services for children and families outside of family foster care or kinship care. In this instance, the organization will also need to complete PA-RC to capture all aspects of assessment, service planning, and coordination for these families.

Note: Please see CA-RC Reference List for the research that informed the development of these standards.

Note: For information about changes made in the 2020 Edition, please see the RC Crosswalk.