Is your young adult with disabilities or special health care needs ready to move out? You might have an idea of how this transition will look, and your young adult might have an idea of what they would like. But it is sometimes confusing to figure out what is best, and making this decision often sparks many different emotions for everyone in your family.
The good news is there are many choices that allow your adult child to have new independence while still getting support, including private housing, group homes, or even moving to a backyard apartment or remodeled suite on your property.
Here are some questions for your young adult to think about during this huge transition. You can also use these questions to begin a conversation.
Once you have discussed some of the choices, you can begin searching for a place.
Apartment: This gives your adult child the most independence. You can find out about apartments that foster a healthy environment by connecting with other parents and parent groups that know about that particular apartment complex. Also, remember that your child has a right to accessibility and has protection from discrimination in apartments through the Texas Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act. You can check out the Americans with Disabilities Act National Network Disability Law Handbook for more information.
Backyard Apartment or House Addition: Your adult child might like living in their own space on your property – or with one roommate – if they don’t want all the new transition responsibilities at once. If you are building a new addition, you will need to look at city codes on size and zoning of a backyard or garage apartment. Some cities allow a bigger dwelling if an occupant has a disability or special health care needs.
Private Home: In this living arrangement, maybe 2 or 3 parents buy a house or duplex and help their children live there with support, including learning responsibilities about bills, doing laundry, and having a job to pay rent.
Apartment Community: Another private option is when parents from different families get together to rent apartments in an apartment complex for their children. This gives young adults with disabilities or special health care needs the chance to be roommates or live close to each other so they have friends to go with to nearby businesses or other social activities.
This is a good choice for parents who have time to invest in driving and can offer help organizing activities like physical fitness classes. It also gives parents freedom to invest in their children’s lives in ways that don’t involve buying a house or paying a larger sum of money beyond monthly rent. This housing choice usually works best for people who are independent and do not need a personal attendant for daily activities.
Private Community Living (also called a dedicated facility): This is typically a larger place that has cottages for group living. Usually there are group activities and shared chores. Some will only accept private pay, and others also accept payments from Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These places usually give adults a sense of routine, a mix of activities, and transportation to get groceries or get to work. This is very different from a traditional home with 3 or 4 residents; these communities might have more than 200 people total. You can find many of these communities by searching online for “residential living for adults with disabilities.”
HCS Group Homes: The Home and Community-based Services (HCS) program has homes for those who have an HCS waiver and want to live in their own bedroom with up to 4 roommates in the house. These homes are inspected by Texas HHSC and run by service providers who contract with HHSC. Services include residential services, companion care, and behavioral support. Your adult child will meet with the provider to decide if the home is a good fit. You can search for a group home on HHSC's Independent Living Services page.
You might find it overwhelming to consider a group home for your adult child, but, in a good setting, your child can have friends and access to help while still developing independent living skills. It is helpful to go with your child to talk to the group home manager about roommates, house chores, transportation to and from work, and more.
Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with an Intellectual Disability or Related Conditions (ICF/IID) Program: The ICF/IID Program has residential facilities for people with intellectual disabilities or a related condition who need to receive treatment in a supervised 24-hour setting. These facilities are managed by the state, usually, have 6 residents (but could have more), and might have roommates sharing rooms. The costs of living in an ICF/IID facility are covered as a Medicaid benefit.
Here are some questions to ask when interviewing a group home:
In any home, front yards with lighting, good locks, and a fire evacuation plan are good safety features. When your adult child moves into a group home, there are other safety concerns that you will want to keep an eye on too. They will have housemates and managers they don’t know yet. While the state requires a criminal background check on all employees at the home, you want your child to know how to stay safe. Be open with your child about signs of abuse or neglect, – if anything feels wrong or another person in the home crosses their comfort zone – and tell them to let you know. We recommend making unscheduled visits at different times to be sure that you are comfortable with the quality of care there. If you suspect abuse or other problems, you can report it to DFPS Adult Protective Services or call 1-800-458-9858.
If your child is on the HCS Waiver, they still have many living options other than a group home. Under the Companion Care program (formerly called adult foster care), your child can live with you – and you could get paid as their caregiver or hire caregivers to come into your home. Your home would have to meet certain criteria and would be checked by HHSC.
Some parents also use HCS or other waiver funds to set up independent living situations for their children – either alone or with roommates – in a private home or apartment.
For more suggestions, see this article from Texas Parent to Parent about setting up or funding a living situation.