This review of literature set out to explore the issues relating to families relinquishing the support of their family member with learning disabilities, often at a point of crisis. The review looked at situations where the family member is placed by disability services in respite care until suitable permanent accommodation can be organised or indeed, at the resolution of the crisis, they are able to return to the family home.
The authors found that the literature indicated many families and carers felt that respite needs were not being met. They also suggest that certain individual and family characteristics appeared to be associated with the need for urgent respite, such as severe disability, poor support, and carer distress.
They found very few focusing on the issue of relinquishment of care which clearly makes it difficult to draw clear conclusions. The authors therefore extrapolated from the literature on respite and relinquishment in other client groups. They found that this pointed towards increased requests for respite as an early warning sign for relinquishment. In addition, challenging behaviors, poor coping and lack of support, dire financial concerns and carer distress were key factors that often led to relinquishment.
Positive interventions found to be helpful in supporting families considering relinquishment or who had relinquished care were active support and cognitive behavioral therapy.
The authors conclude that respite allocations must be regular and planned in accordance to the needs of families if they are to maximise their benefit from such services. Given the paucity of literature, they also call for more research on this issue to expand the current knowledge base and to identify strategies support families more effectively.
Respite and Parental Relinquishment of Care: A Comprehensive Review of the Available Literature, Nankervis, K et al., in Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 8: 150–162