- What is a Group Home? I wish I had a nickel for every time I have been asked this question over the past decade. Many people do not know what a group home is or what its purpose is within the community. There are many different types of group homes providing care for a wide variety of people such as recovering addicts, disabled veterans, or those with mental illness. One type of group home that may not be as well known on the East End is one where people with developmental disabilities reside. These homes have been in our communities for more than 35 years yet they still carry with them an unfortunate negative stigma. Many people have a pre-conceived notion about what a group home is and what goes on inside, as well as how they are conceived and who oversees them. Maybe we can dispel some of these prejudices with a little bit of knowledge and understanding.
Group homes for people with developmental disabilities began to develop on Long Island shortly after the Willowbrook Consent Decree was enacted in 1975. Today, there are hundreds of group homes throughout Long Island that allow people with developmental disabilities to experience the security and comfort of a home-like environment, while receiving the specialized care they require. Most of these homes are overseen by a not-for-profit agency that provides specially trained staff that is responsible for the direct care of the residents within the home.
Once an agency selects a group of developmentally disabled men, women, or children to reside in a group home, the design and planning of the actual house begins. The agency will work with staff from the Long Island Developmental Disabilities Services Organization (LIDDSO) as well as with the future residents and their families to design and build a home that best meets their needs. When construction is complete and the home is certified to meet all regulatory requirements it's time to move in!
The typical group home will have three to 12 people living in it all with similar disabilities. Each person is urged to participate in all activities within the home including household chores. The day will usually begin with residents getting ready for their busy day. Making beds, self-grooming, getting dressed, and breakfast are all part of the morning routine. Then, it's off to work and school.
Group home residents are active during the day and do not sit idle in their homes. Children who live in a group home still have to go to school and many of the adults work in various jobs within our communities. Those who cannot work, attend day habilitation programs that provide vocational training to prepare them for the workforce.
After completing a long and productive day, residents are eager to get back home to relax and participate in a variety of recreational activities. Dinner is prepared, with the assistance of the staff, and enjoyed by the residents as they sit and eat as one big family. When the table is cleared and dirty dishes are tended to, it's time to have a little fun!
Movies, bowling, church socials, barbeques, and even the occasional Ducks game are some of the recreational activities the residents enjoy. Or maybe they just want to relax and watch TV or play a video game. It's their choice - that's the beauty of a group home. They encourage growth for residents to live a more independent life while providing them with a genuine sense of belonging; and, most importantly, to continually nurture their physical, psychological and emotional growth.