Organization: OPAL Family Services
In January 1983, a group of 'concerned friends' decided something had to be done when a friend, a mother of two intellectually disabled boys, had a breakdown. This breakdown was caused by the stress related to caring for her very high needs children. Thus, a committee was formed to research the need of a relief program for parents who had a son or daughter with an intellectual disability. The need proved to be significant, as there were no programs of this kind. The committee decided to focus on developing a program that would provide parents 'out-of-home' relief.
OPAL Family Services, was incorporated as a charitable entity in 1984 as a means of providing respite for parents who have a child or adult dependent with an intellectual disability. Respite is defined as “an interval of rest or relief.” OPAL strives to meet this need for respite by providing services specifically designed to give parents a break.
The OPAL name is derived from the opal gemstone, which is the symbol of hope; at OPAL, we strive to bring hope to the families that we work with. Parenting a child with an intellectual disability is a continuous process (24 hours a day, 7 days a week), often without a break. Therefore, many parents become isolated and burnt-out from caring for their children at home. Unlike other parents, parents who have a child with an intellectual disability don't often get natural breaks (respite). This is because their children don't always get invited to participate in activities with other children. Parents often need to accompany their special needs child to extra-curricular activities instead of just sending them.