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Feb 27, 2013 9:42 AM

Respite care program helps DM families who have kids with special needs

TUCSON- Life keeps Jennifer and Ross Orvik pretty busy.

Ross is a Navy Reserve Commander based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Jennifer is President/CEO of her own company.

Together they have two young boys. Grant is four-years-old and Jordan is nine-years-old.

At age two, Jordan was diagnosed with autism.

"When you throw in the fact that we're a military family, who lives far away from our family, then you throw in the fact that we have a child with special needs, it just makes it more challenging to find the right people to care for our children," Ross says.

Last Fall the Orviks learned about Davis-Monthan's military respite program. It provides military families who have children with special needs with free child care, up to 20 hours a week. "They come for date nights, or whatever level of support you need," Jennifer says.

The Orviks are one of a couple dozen families at Davis-Monthan who utilize the respite program. Families must be a part of the military's Exceptional Family Program.

At Davis-Monthan there are 12 child caretakers, contracted through Easter Seals. They not only take care of the children with special needs, but also their siblings. "All of them have experience with children with developmental delays," says Jaime Rodriguez of Easter Seals.

For Jennifer and Ross the extra help is a relief and a boost to their marriage. "One of the things that all marriages need, but especially marriages with special needs kids, is to remember to take time to be with your partner and make your marriage work," Jennifer says.

Davis-Monthan is one of 22 Air Force bases across the country where respite is offered. The goal is to eventually have it every base.

The respite program is funded by a non-profit association called "Child Care Aware of America". Tracey Schaefer of Public Affairs for "Child Care Aware of America" says they don't know at this time if, or how the sequester cuts will impact the program.

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