Years ago, my daughter Kortney came home from a friend’s house, where she was babysitting. She asked me how old a child should be before parents can stop hiring babysitters.

I told her that in some states, it is legal to leave a child home alone after the age of 8. I also told her that I never felt comfortable leaving her and her siblings until they were 12.

She asked me how parents could afford the babysitting costs for 12 years. I reminded Kortney of her sister Kelsey and her friends.

It made Kortney think twice. In her 15 years with Kelsey, she personally knew the need, the time, and the cost.

Respite care provides temporary relief for a primary caregiver, enabling them to take a much-needed break from the demands of caring for a person who is sick, aging or has disabilities. Respite care can also add a friend to the special needs person’s life.

Kortney knew that we’d hired respite care providers for Kelsey for some time. Many children with disabilities require respite care their entire life

In fact, I used to think it was hard to find a good, safe sitter when a child was 2, but it’s really hard to find a sitter when a child is 25.

Our first experience with respite care came in Bakersfield, California, over 40 years ago. Kelsey was 3, and prior to accepting this new program, we had never left her.

We were contacted through Kelsey’s school about the respite care program. We learned a lot that first year.

Basically, an agency, or you, trains a caregiver or nurse to come to your home to care for your special-needs child. It was a great support to our family.

We felt the freedom and security of leaving our daughter for the first time in her life. In that California program, 40 years ago, we were provided $2,000 in services a year.

Since then, respite care has become a lifeline to our family.

We have lived in several states. Each state has provided us respite care. Over the years, our respite programs have ranged from $2,500 to $5,000 a year. As our daughter has grown, the state respite programs have grown and increased in funding.

For those who don’t know, in a respite care program at $2,500/year, $10 an hour (the going rate for our daughter), a family receives 250 hours a year or approximately 20 hours a month. Some months, that equals to four hours a week. Families get a four-hour break to balance the extra care and time needed for the special needs individual.

For me it’s been invaluable.

I’ve had many friends, very financially secure, who have used respite care because it’s hard to find and keep respite-care providers. It also connects families to resources and requires no financial eligibility, thanks to our legislators.

Our family relies on respite care. Some “medical” years, we couldn’t have lived without it. Our last landing spot, Missouri, had an incredible respite program. It was easy, prompt and effective, with no red tape.

It was. Years ago, there was a lawsuit. One agency that serves those with disabilities wanted more.

Now an entire state program has been damaged and thousands of families’ support lost.

There, now I feel better. Sometimes you just have to vent.

Today, a family is limited to $500 a year. That breaks down to four hours and 20 minutes a month.

A respite care program can produce a happy child, healthy marriage and strong family. Long term, it can save the government thousands of dollars.

Kortney suggested years ago to tell the governor that Kelsey’s really happy, and so are we, when she knows someone’s coming to see her.”

I know he cares about our families in Jefferson City but I need proof. Governor Parson, show me.

Diane Mack is coordinator of Putting Families First, Jackson County's Family Week Foundation. Email her at Director@jacksoncountyfamilyweek.org.