Group homes are often the subject of conversations among families and human service professionals. This is largely because residential placement and housing is one of the most critical services that are coordinated by the case manager. Group homes continue to be in high demand even in the current economy. New group homes continue to sprout up despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite their demand and popularity, group homes often receive a lot of unfair criticism. I will discuss some of the most common misconceptions of group homes I hear from a number of my colleagues and families of the residents.
1. Group homes are only in it for the money.
The number one misconception of group homes is that they are only in it for the money. I think people fail to realize that group homes are no different from any other business within the human services field. They need to earn revenue to survive. I remember talking with another case manager and listening to her complain about group homes making money “off the backs of the disabled”. I laughed to myself because she failed to realize that our department literally makes millions of dollars annually from the very same population. But for some reason it is perceived as a negative when it comes to group homes.
The bottom line is that we all provide a service and deserve compensation. There will always be some providers that are better than others. However, I feel that most group homes are genuinely in the field to help people, but also to stay in business.
2. Group homes don’t care about the residents.
This misconception also stems from the money issue. There is often a feeling that the staff don’t care about the residents. The staff will never replace a parent as a caregiver but in my experience, the staff is caring and do a good job providing direct care to the residents. Keep in mind that some support staff assist with bathing and toileting depending on the level of disability. This requires a great care and compassion. In addition, group home staff are also among the lowest paid employees but provide the most vital direct care.
3. Staff is not qualified or knowledgeable.
Group home staff go through extensive training. Staff is trained in CPR/First Aid, medication administration, and management of aggressive behaviors. Staff is also knowledgeable in using medical transport devices such as hoyer lifts and wheelchairs. They also support residents with monitoring blood pressure and blood sugar as needed. In addition, support staff often accompany residents to medical appointments and help communicate health concerns/progress to the medical professionals.
4. Group homes do the bare minimum to get paid.
This is another misconception is that group homes do the bare minimum requirements. I have had group home providers fly with their residents out of state to visit relatives and take their residents on annual vacations. I have also witnessed a number of provider that go the extra mile to care for residents with extensive medical needs.
The group home business is so competitive now that doing the bare minimum would be quickly exposed. Residents can quickly move on to another provider if they are not satisfied with their current placement. Now more than ever group homes need to do more to get noticed and attract potential residents. I have even seen group homes waive the rent payment or cut the rent payments in half in order to keep residents or fill vacancies.
5. Group homes have a negative impact surrounding home value and neighborhood.
I feel like this is a close second to the first misconception I discussed earlier in this post. The neighbors may have concerns that their property values will decrease when a group opens in their neighborhood. However, research has shown that this is usually not the case. Group homes are now more community-based and blend in with other homes in the neighborhood. Major incidents that may disrupt the neighborhood are few and far between. In my 18 years as a case manager I can say that I have had less than ten incidents where the police had to be called to the home and even fewer neighbor complaints.