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June 25, 2016

Group Homes: Why Bigger is not Always Better


You’ve heard the phrase “Bigger is better” right? This has not been the case when it comes to group homes for the disabled. Many states have established policies designed to downsize institutions and training centers and serve people with community residential options. Group homes still remain the most popular option when it comes to residential placement outside of the family home. However, group home size is one area that has come under increased scrutiny.

Many states are reducing the number of large group homes in an effort to improve the overall quality of services. Homes that house more than 10 residents will soon be a thing of the past. Fewer residents will of course mean less revenue. Residential providers will be forced to make adjustments to stay in business such as purchasing several small houses instead of large houses. Staffing will also need to be adjusted to meet the needs of fewer residents. There are some advantages to smaller group homes or group homes that only have 2-4 residents.

1. More person-centered services: Fewer residents allow more opportunities for specialized activities. Staff can concentrate more on specific treatment plan goals and devote more time to training and developing independent living skills. The extra attention increases the likelihood of making progress and actually completing treatment plan goals.  

2. More community integration: Community outings should be easier with fewer residents. Although this often means fewer support staff, smaller groups should make it for staff to provide support in the community and devote more attention to residents. Residents should also have more opportunities to participate in activities they enjoy rather than what’s more convenient for the group. More staff attention should also lead to more safety in the community. Of course smaller groups are safer, especially with residents who may tend to wander.

3. Creates a more natural environment: Smaller group homes create a more natural, family-like atmosphere. The goal of every group home should be to create an environment that is comfortable and mimics a normal home. I think we can all agree that living with 10 other non- related people is anything but natural.

4. Privacy: Smaller group homes also provide more privacy. Fewer residents should allow each resident to have their own room. I have known some facilities that have put three to a room with a bunk bed and a regular bed. We used to call that “warehousing” clients for additional profit.  I’m pretty sure some facilities are still doing this but it is not acceptable in community-based residential programs.

5. More interaction with support staff:  Group homes with fewer residents often have better resident/staff interaction. This also ties back to more person- centered services in that there is more time to spend with residents in smaller groups and more time for one to one conversation and training. Better communication and more attention can often prevent problems before they escalate. Staff can recognize anxiety or frustration and be more proactive in providing support. 

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