Parenting a child with severely challenging behaviours is very stressful and threatens family well-being. Short break (respite) services are commonly provided as a support to families but surprisingly little attention has been paid to adapting these services when children and families have complex needs. This article describes the model of service that has evolved in three separate locations which successfully provides overnight short breaks and/or community-based support to families. The model was documented and validated through individual and group interviews with a range of stakeholders – around 30 in all. The services are embedded within multi-agency partnerships and four particular features are highlighted: the values and ethos underpinning the service; the service procedures; the organization of short breaks; and the role of an intensive support/outreach service. The rationale for complex service models is discussed and the key lessons for replicating this model are reviewed.