Starting a group home, while a business venture, is a labor of love. You do it because of a sense of mission or compassion for a group of people needing assistance. The business, in addition to being extremely rewarding, can make for a comfortable living. The process for starting a group home in Arizona differs little from that in other states.
House and License
Find a house for the group home since the address must appear on the application for a license. There will need to be enough bedrooms for the number of residents in the home. Consider how residents will get around in the house. Make sure doors and hallways are wide enough. As far as zoning laws are concerned, you can place your home in any residential neighborhood you wish. However, be prepared for some of your neighbors to dislike your presence.
Request an application packet from the Arizona Department of Health. It will ask for the group home name and address and the applicant's name and contact information. It will also ask if the proposed group home is accredited by a nationally-recognized accreditation organization. This is not legally necessary, but it is good to have for credibility. Once this application is filled out properly, there is an on-site inspection. If you pass, you are a licensed group home provider.
In addition, you will need to develop plans for fire and evacuation drills, have an automatic sprinkler system installed, keep the house between 65 and 85 degrees, have a stove and a refrigerator, keep the home clean and sanitary, and to make the address easily visible from the street.
Opening the Home
Next, you need to hire a staff. It need not be that many at first, since you will probably want to work your way up to full capacity in regard to the residents. Hire just three or four staff at first and admit one resident in order to let everyone get used to the procedures.
When hiring, thorough background checks are in order. In addition, prospective employees should have some compelling reason for wanting to work in a group home. Why are they interested in helping people? Do they have some experience or education that will help them? In Arizona, there are no legal requirements for working in a group home. Frequently, you will be hiring younger people with an interest in special education.
Add staff and residents until you are at full capacity. You will need to be working long hours and paying close attention because you will need to be training staff and getting disoriented residents used to the home.
If you can raise the money, gut the house and then renovate it according to the needs of the residents. For instance, having everything on one floor might be important if you expect to work with residents who will have difficulty on stairs. Perhaps the basement or upstairs could be used for offices, and be off-limits to residents.
Dangers abound when you take on the care of the disabled. They are easily taken advantage of, they can wander off, and they may not be able to communicate important information such as "I am sick." Make sure the residents are with responsible people at all times and that the house's yard is fenced in. As far as communication, as time goes by you will get to know your residents better, which is why you opened the house in the first place.
- house image by Byron Moore from Fotolia.com