Neal McGinnes and his son Austin

Neal McGinnes of Newark relies on the respite program to help with child care for his son Austin, who has Autism.

The state will pitch in and provide a cash influx to revive vital respite services for families of children with Autism that was abruptly suspended by the Christina School District due to funding issues.  

The announcement, from the governor's office Tuesday, comes one day after a meeting between state stakeholders and the Christina School District, which administers the program.  

Carney's said the state will help fund the Delaware Autism Program and will work on a strategy to find funding for the initiative for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2020. 

Bert Scoglietti of the Delaware Office of Management and Budget said Christina requested $750,000 in state funding for the program.

"The actual amount of assistance from the state will depend upon program utilization through the end of the fiscal year," he told WDEL in an email.

Scoglietti said the funding would come from surpluses identified in the budget, but could not further specify what departments or areas that would fall under.

"The governor has only made the commitment to the program, no money has been moved to the program as of yet," he noted. 

In exchange for the funding assistance, the Christina School District has agreed to close state oversight of its administration of the project, including a monthly report to the state of service hours provided through the respite program. The governor's office said Christina also agreed to participate in a working group, which will be led by the Delaware Department of Education and consist of stakeholders, who will make recommendations on the program's future.

“We have heard from Delaware families and members of the General Assembly about the hardship created by Christina School District’s unexpected suspension of the respite program,” said Gov. Carney in a written statement. "We need to step up for these families who need our help. That’s simply the right thing to do.”

The decision comes after Christina abruptly sent a memo to parents, saying the program would be suspended, causing an outcry among affected parents, who said the service provides them with the ability to finish their work day, run errands, or simply catch their breath, when other child care providers can't provide the specialized care their children need. 

In a statement, Christina Superintendent Richard Gregg said he's pleased that collaborative efforts have led to a resolution.  

"We understand that respite care is essential to maintaining a healthy family structure and Christina is committed to continuing to provide solutions for families. Having a diverse workgroup, participating at all levels to make recommendations on the future of the program and the services offered is a win for all of us," said Gregg. "We are happy that this program will be receiving the support and resources that it needs allowing us to resume providing these critically needed services.”

Neal McGiness of Newark, who spoke out after his 7-year-old son, Austin was left at school, amid funding issues surrounding respite services, called the solution temporary. The district says Austin was left at school due to "time code" issues on the part of his provider. McGiness said it boils down to funding and his son was left at school--without a respite care provider picking him up--over $22.12

"My biggest question still remains how will this program be sustained and remain viable so this doesn't happen again."