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Group Homes Provide Benefits and Risks: Supervision is the Key to Safety

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Across the country there are homes set up for the benefit of mentally retarded adults and children that require around the clock assistance and supervision. These homes are frequently referred to as Group Homes. These facilities can be a blessing to families that are overwhelmed by the needs of their loved ones with mental deficiencies preventing them from living independent lives. The homes can also provide to mentally challenged individuals the independence they need and may want in living their lives. County and State Boards of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disability (MRDD) do their best to both operate such group home facilities and to screen independently operated facilities for these disabled residents.

Unfortunately, when independent private and for profit companies undertake operation of Group Homes, close scrutiny must be made as to the quality of care provided. Most states require certain minimum standards to apply for operation of such a facility but many states do not require licensure to operate a private group home. In turn, when for profit companies operate Group Homes, economics often become the bottom line and training, education, and qualification of staff can diminish quickly as can the quality of care. Cost cutting to increase profits does not benefit the residents of a group home and may put them at risk.

As an example, I am handling a lawsuit on behalf of an adult Downs Syndrome resident of a group home who was inadequately supervised in her home setting. My client ended up in the middle of the street on a dark evening after walking out of the front door of her home without staff being aware she had left the facility. She was critically injured when she was hit by a car in the roadway and frankly she was lucky to have survived.

In recent months in the greater Cleveland area, I have read about multiple instances where residents have left their group home without supervision. Such occurrences can only be the result of inadequate supervision of residents. I have also read about instances where disabled residents were injured and in one instance even killed from the actions of another resident where the home staff failed to assure the safety of others living in the home who were unable to think for themselves or protect themselves.

If considering placing a loved one in a group home take the time to research the history of the home, the turnover in employees, the turnover in residents, the nature of any unusual incidents in the home and assure that criminal background checks have been preformed on all staff. It is also worth while to get references from the family of other residents to ascertain the quality of care and level of commitment the home provides to its disabled residents.