Advocates for the disabled spelled out “STEP UP” in shoes on the steps of the Statehouse.

Families rely on Respite care to accomplish everyday tasks like grocery shopping.

The steps of the South Carolina State House bore a powerful message on Monday: STEP UP.

The declaration was spelled out with a variety of shoes to represent the variety of disabilities that affect South Carolina residents. All morning, advocates for the disabled stood on the steps in front of the display and rallied the crowd— even those with disabilities themselves.

One of the main issues being advocated for was the Respite program. The word respite means a short rest or relief, and that’s exactly what the program seeks to provide for families with special needs children.

Respite provides free child care for families who have children that cannot be left unsupervised, or cannot be brought to places like the grocery store. Parents who need to leave the house for any reason can rely on the Respite program to take care of their kids, so they do not have to pay a babysitter just to have food in the house.

South Carolina’s Family Caregiver Support Program funds some of Respite care, with other funds coming from Medicaid. States have the choice to provide for money for those families that require the services, but do not qualify under those programs— which is exactly what the rally attendees are fighting for.

With her son running in circles around her and clinging to her legs, Renetta Gibson expressed how Respite enables her to be a better parent. Her son has special needs and requires round-the-clock care.

“You’re spending 24/7 taking care of your children,” Gibson said. It’s important, she said, “to get that break, to be able to breathe and think and just get your thoughts together and just go back in there and be the best parent that you can be.”

Most importantly, parents know that Respite care is safe and reliable.

“It just gives you that time, someone watching your kiddos, someone who you can trust and who will take good care of them,” Gibson said.

To learn more about South Carolina Respite programs, visit