Opening a group home for the disabled may be a calling for you. The disabled have accessibility, social and rehabilitation needs. Sometimes the family cannot provide all of those needs, and sometimes the disabled may not have family to give them supported care. You can supply potential residents with a support system and give them the opportunity to live in a safe, accessible home. Find out how you can start a group home that benefits the disabled and their families. The rewards are priceless.
Contact a Social Service agency such as the Department of Human Services (DHS) or a private charity such as Catholic Social Services or Lutheran Social Services. You need a license to open a group home, so ask for an application packet, rules and regulations handbook, and any other paperwork or information you need.
Find housing that meets licensing and inspection requirements. Contact the zoning department in your city to find out if you can open a group home in that area. Your group home must pass inspection to ensure it is safe and suitable to serve the disabled. An inspector comes to your group home and evaluates the home on accessibility, safety, sanitation, space, equipment, furnishings, and provision of care among others.
Attend the workshop or other licensing sessions required for licensure. You have the opportunity to ask questions and get additional information. These sessions are formal, but you can also get personalized support through other licensed attendees. You may need to attend these sessions again when you renew your license. Make a contact list for those who are willing to help or advise you, and get referrals for staff and other workers for your group home.
Apply for grants and seek funding for your group home. Government grants are available, and Social Services can give you more information on funding your group home. Some group homes charge the residents directly, while other homes rely only on private and public funds. Open a separate bank account, and keep all financial records for at least 3 years for tax purposes. Evaluate your budget regularly, and make changes as needed.
Renew your license. About 60 days before your license expires, prepare for license renewal by contacting Social Services for reinsertion and other requirements. Ask about any new provisions or other requirements that have changed since you received your license. Do not allow your license to expire, unless you have contacted DHS about your decision not to renew, as the disabled residing in the home need placement.
At first glance, the rules and regulations handbook seems extensive and may overwhelm a potential licensee. But many of the requirements are common knowledge, so do not let the handbook, application or process intimidate your vision of opening a group home.
By law, the licensing department and Social Services can have access to the home, its residents or records at any time. Usually this does not happen unless there is a complaint or other legitimate reason, but there may be a random inspection or other inquiry at any time without prior announcement.
Consider accrediting your group home through a nationally recognized body. This proves that your group home has the highest quality of standards, going beyond the state's licensing requirements. Accreditation is not required to open a group home, but it is an accomplishment and it may help your chances of receiving grants, funding and other opportunities for the residents. See Resources for more information.
Be sure to refer to your handbook often and practice safety at all times. Refer to the dangers and hazards, fire safety, sanitation, accessibility and emergency procedures codes in the handbook.
If you violate any provisions, laws or other requirements, you will lose the opportunity to hold a license for a disabled group home and you will not be able to receive a license for any other type of group home such as those for the mentally ill, children and aged adults at any time after suspension or revoke of license.
Cheryl Myers has has a master's degree from Saint Leo University and currently writes for several publications including Fit Pregnancy, Guideposts and Parent's Magazine.