California Respite Association Mission Statement

The mission of the California Respite Association (CRA) is to support the expansion and enhancement of respite services to individuals, families and caregivers of the elderly, persons with developmental and/or physical disabilities, brain impairment and other disabling conditions (1/28/1993)

History of the California Respite Association (CRA)

The California Respite Association, originally named the Respite Services Association of California, was incorporated in 1982.  It was clear from the beginning that it would be a grassroots advocacy and respite focused association.  In the early years, UCP of Sacramento and Northern California had a major leadership role with the organization as did a small number of other California based respite organizations such as the Arc San Diego, Plumas Respite Services, SummerHouse, Family Support Services of the Bay Area, Tri-County Respite Services (now Tri-County Caregiver Relief Services, and Bay Area Family Services (now Bay Respite Care). 

Many of the early Board Officers were key staff members of the above organizations.  Many of the key names from the above organizations were Tanya Hartle, Lyn Zarick from UCP; Dianne Rose from Tri-County, Laurie Zell, then Mike Huckins  and Don Morgan with Bay Area Family Services and Bay Respite Care, Judy Levin from Family Support Services, Ann Greenhill from SummerHouse.  Many of us served multiple terms in our various officer positions.

In 1990, both a $.81 an hour wage differential for Respite Direct Service Professionals as well as a mileage reimbursement based on what State employees receive were instituted by the Department of Developmental Services.  It quickly became apparent that maintaining both of these would be difficult at best every time the State Employees mileage reimbursement changed and the minimum wage went us from the base year of $4.25 per hour ($5.06 per hour Respite Direct Service Professional pay).  CRA has remained ever vigilant in our efforts to preserve the precedent of both mileage and the wage differential. 

In the early 1990s CRA had both semi-annual meetings for all membership as well as northern and southern California regional meetings in between the annual meetings.  As time went on, it became more difficult to find the leadership to continue the regional meetings so we began providing travel stipends to increase attendance at the annual meetings.

In the late 1990s, we sent CRA representation to the DDS System Reform meetings.  These meetings lasted for several years until DDS realized that any increased expectations related to staff training would require an increase in the funding for direct service professionals.  CRA advocated for a reduced level of additional training as most of our Respite Providers are very part-time.  Because of the lack of funding available, the community service providers walked away from the Service Reform meetings.

In the late 1990s, CRA also instituted the first year membership free.  Through this, we were able to increase our membership from approximately 20 members to over 35 members.  It was around this time that we began a campaign to increase the wages of our Respite providers.  This included our famous visit to the governor’s office with “oversized cookies that had respite written on top”. During this visit, we befriend Peggy Collins and Diane Van Maren, staffers who became very helpful in teaching us about the legislative process.

In the early 2000s, the economy improved and our campaign for a rate increase gathered traction.  It wasn’t until 2006 when, thanks to the entire advocacy communities efforts, that a 3% rate increase was approved.

On a national level, 2006 was also the enactment year of the Lifespan Respite Act which would create systems of coordinated respite care statewide.  Many of us began attending the national conferences in hope this would enhance our growth here in California.  This led to CRA hosting the 2009 Lifespan Respite Conference in Burbank—the first year of a dozen or so states receiving three, $200,000 Lifespan Respite grants each.  We held a California Respite Summit and hoped to generate interest at the State level.  Unfortunately, the grant writers at the State level decided that it would not be worth the effort for California to apply for less than a million dollar grant.  Although many additional Lifespan Respite Grant Cycles have passed since then, California remains one of the minority states to apply.

During the late 2000s, we had the inspired notion of hiring staff, especially a lobbyist to help us with our efforts.  Dues were increased fourfold to help accomplish this.  Although this added much needed resources to help fund activities like the conference, it became clear that we would never have the critical mass to continually fund a staff driven organization.  We approached the California Disability Services Association and CAHSAH, the Home Health Association with some respite members to consider a collaborative effort with our advocacy.  The latter wanted to absorb our small association after a two year period, so we chose to align ourselves with CDSA.  They created a specific “Respite Affiliate” members status that had one vote in exchange for our having at least 10 members that perform at least 80 percent respite services.  After a couple of orientation meetings, we were able to recruit the 10 members with the help of CRA’s offer to rebate the CDSA Respite Affiliate membership dues up to the annual $450 fees.  We have maintained this rebate to create a constant respite presence since then.

Of late, our constant effort has been to keep up with the tremendous number of new unfunded mandates: minimum wage, overtime, affordable care act, large employer fees for Respite Employees on MediCal, etc.  In 2013, we joined the Lanterman Coalition so that we can have a common voice with all of the other advocacy groups for community-based services. 

And that brings us to today, where we need to recommit to our grassroots efforts through increased membership.  We need every respite organization to consider joining or rejoining us to keep respite in the forefront of our State decision-makers thoughts.  Our Respite families and their Respite providers are counting on us!