Montgomery Co. agency waives respite care income requirement for families of children with special needs

Leona Meddaugh poses for a picture with her husband and grandchildren Zeki and Oberron Evans-El. The Arc Montgomery County is helping to provide respite care for the family while schools are closed during the coronavirus outbreak.

Leona Meddaugh, of Germantown, Maryland, is the primary caregiver for her two grandsons Zeki and Oberron Evans-El, 8 and 9, who both have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and other special needs.

When the coronavirus outbreak worsened, they were suddenly home from school full-time, and she had difficulties balancing their care and schooling in their home.

“It has changed our lives tremendously,” said Meddaugh of their schedule since the coronavirus outbreak closed schools and the before and aftercare centers for the boys. “It’s very overwhelming with the schooling. Both boys are very different with their mood swings, so they require very specialized care — a lot of one-on-one focus.”

Meddaugh is now getting help from The Arc Montgomery County, a nonprofit that helps provide respite care to families that have children with special needs.

The organization usually has an income requirement for its program, but that has been waived to help families that now are schooling children with special needs at home.

“Caregiving is a very demanding and stressful responsibility and care providers need the opportunity to get relief from their caregiver duties,” said Julia Abate, respite care coordinator for The Arc Montgomery County. “This provides some short-term breaks so they can renew and restore a sense of balance in their life.”

The program usually is meant only to provide a break to families, so it is not for people working from home, but Abate said that with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, they are now helping to give parents a break from care to do what they need to do for their jobs.

“With this situation that is going on right now, parents are working from home and need this balance of getting a break to do their job,” Abate said.

The limit is usually 140 hours per fiscal year from July 1 through June 30, but now, The Arc is helping families find and fund health care providers for free for 40 hours or more each month, depending on the situation.

“We do have strict guidelines, but we’ve been very fortunate to work closely with Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services to make exceptions so we can help more families,” Abate said.

The organization doesn’t provide the health care providers themselves but helps to coordinate and organize connecting families with home health care agencies that best fit. Families of children with special needs can apply on the organization’s website.

Meddaugh said the program has been extremely helpful, especially with keeping their school video lessons up as schools are closed.

“They wear gloves and masks and they take great, great care of my boys,” Meddaugh said. “I’m beyond grateful for how they’re helping my family.”

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Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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