Host homes, also referred to as foster care, offer day-to-day support in a community-based family home. When people think of foster care, children come to mind, but it's becoming a more common option for adults with developmental disabilities. In fact, it is estimated that more than 100,000 U.S. adults with developmental disabilities now are in need of a family home due to a variety of circumstances.
Adult Foster Care, also known as Shared Living, provides personal care and supportive services such as homemaker, chore, and medication oversight in a private home by an unrelated, principal care provider in the provider's primary residence.
While that is the official definition, the individuals and host families who take advantage of this option see it as much more – it's about living together as a family.
Debbie and Lori welcomed Susan into their home after her elderly parents decided they could no longer care for their 63 year-old daughter in their home.
"I'm 91," said Mary Lou, Susan's mother. "It's a hard thing to do in the beginning – a hard decision. I felt like I was letting her down. It took me a while to feel comfortable with it, but I knew it was the right thing to do."
Regina also lives in the home, and two dogs round out the household. The experience has been beneficial for everyone.
"We love caring for Susan and Regina, and they have added so much to our lives. The arrangement lets them be themselves, and lets us be us," observed Debbie and Lori.
"When you have the right people matched together in a community-based home setting, it's extremely gratifying," said Kathy Phillips, owner of Turning Point Residential. "Knowing that a person who had been lonely, or who had been not properly cared for when living elsewhere, is now in a loving family home is a wonderful feeling. We've learned that everyone involved wins in that environment."
Identifying the right match
Ron and his wife, Gayle, had cared for several individuals in their home prior to Gayle's death a few years ago. Ron, who now is retired, noted that finding the right match takes thought and planning.
"You have to click with that person. You have to care about their needs and interests," he said.
Nine years ago, when Ron met Ed, they just clicked. Ron said Ed is like a brother to him, and is good company with his wife gone.
"When a good match has been made, there's no better testimonial than that individual and that family connecting with others who also could make this approach work for them," said Chris Kristanich of Caregiver Homes.
Research and reporting has shown that a good Home Sharing situation follows these guidelines:
- Screening/matching between individuals and host families for compatibility
- Requiring background checks for all adults who live in the home
- Offering pre-home visitation – homes must be clean, plumbing and electrical systems must be modern, and homes must have smoke detectors and marked fire exitsProviding staff training that is individual-specific, and emphasizes community engagement
- Ensuring that a system for oversight is in place, as well as back-up coverage for emergencies
- Offering respite care for the Host Family
May is National Foster Care Month. The month spotlights the experiences of the thousands of adults and children in the national foster care system – many of whom have disabilities. The recognition aims to encourage people to get involved by being foster or adoptive parents, or mentors.
This year's theme, "Get to Know the Many Faces of Foster Care," draws attention to the importance of permanency. Permanency can mean kinship care, guardianship, or lifelong permanent connections.