WESTMINSTER — For Dave Tracey, his wife, Debra, and their family, the weeklong vacation in Ocean City last August was one to remember.
They give much of the credit to Carroll Haven Inc.'s Stepping Out program, which encourages families with developmentally disabled members to take a break through respite care and asks businesses to help out with discounts.
"It made a big difference having the extra pair of hands and the help with the kids on the beach," said Tracey, 30, of Lineboro. "My wife and I even had the opportunity to go out to dinner one evening byourselves."
The Traceys were among 23 Carroll families helped by Stepping Out in fiscal 1991.
The program, sponsored by Carroll Haven Inc., will pay for respite care and provide recreational discountsto 25 county families with developmentally disabled members in fiscal 1992. Stepping Out, which began its second year on Oct. 1, is funded through a grant from the Maryland State Developmental Disabilities Council.
"It's really important for parents with developmentally disabled children to get out," said Tracey. "It's like a relief valve.
"It provides you with the incentive to go out and enjoy yourself," he said. "The expense is not there, because you can use the vouchers and the respite care."
The Traceys and their children, Angela 5,Kristen, 2, and Dianna, 8 months, were joined on the vacation trip by another family member and a trained respite-care worker.
"With her Down's syndrome, Kristen requires more sleep than other kids her age," Tracey said. "We would leave the beach early to take her back. The respite worker would stay in the room with her, so my wife and I could go back to the beach with the other children."
Respite-care workers must be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid, said Susan Lee, Stepping Out's program manager.
"If they do not have CPR and first-aid training, we will pay for it," she said. "Wealso give them an overview on mental retardation and how to deal with individuals who have different disabilities."
With a trained respite worker, parents or care-givers can feel more comfortable about taking a night off for themselves, Lee said.
"We allow each family $250 a year, which can be used to pay for the respite worker on different occasions," Lee said.
The annual allotment is provided by theFamily and Individual Support Services program at Carroll Haven Inc., which is funded by state grants.
About 20 respite-care workers, trained by Carroll Haven staff, have been hired to participate in theprogram.
"It is a different program, in that we (also) asked businesses to donate or give discounts for their specific services," Lee said.
About 14 county businesses, including restaurants, hotels and golf parks, are participating this year, she said, with restaurantsusually offering a "buy-one, get-one-free meal."
The program places no limit on use of discount vouchers.
Carroll Haven Inc. is a private, non-profit agency in Westminster that provides rehabilitationand a work-aid center for 85 developmentally disabled county residents.
Information: 848-1824 or 876-2179.