Housing Choices for Young Adults with Disabilities

Although this article primarily relates to Texas residents, there is a lot of good information and thought provoking ideas that may benefit HIANN members when looking at housing options.

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.

Assisted and Independent Living for Young Adults with Disabilities

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.

  • Do I want to live entirely alone, and can I do that?

  • What kinds of support do I need to be able to live alone?

  • Do I want to live in a place that is very social with roommates and shared meals?

  • Would I like to live some place with supervised activities and more than 50 roommates living in groups in individual cottages?

  • Do I want to live in a situation where different parents buy or rent a group of apartments and their adult children live together?

  • Do I want to live with another family and be treated like a member of their family? Or do I just want to have a room there and be on my own?

  • Do I want to live with someone who does not have a disability or special health-care needs or with someone who does?

  • Do I have a friend that I would like to live with?

Once you have discussed some of the choices, you can begin searching for a place.

Planning Your House Hunting

  • You can get ready to find the right housing by doing some homework on your child’s finances and the funding changes that will happen at age 18 on our Funding and Services page. Be sure to factor in any money from state and federal sources, especially the waiver programs that give financial help for housing.

  • Take advantage of transition help offered by your child’s teacher while your child is still in school.

  • Connecting with other parents who have children a few years older than your child can help you see what tips they have to offer and what lessons they’ve learned on existing challenges.

  • Talk to your child’s case manager, if they have one. The case manager can keep you current on any benefits you might not be aware of. If your child does not have a case manager, you can ask your child’s health insurance provider or call Medicaid about case management services.

  • Call Texas HHSC, and they will usually call back within 24 hours and give you information on group homes and what kind of services or supports your young adult can use to be more independent.

House Hunting Tips

  • Whether you are looking at apartments, group homes, or larger private facilities, house hunting is something to do with your child.

  • When thinking about a certain neighborhood, you can look up bus routes, restaurants, parks, and stores together (if possible). See what the area has to offer in terms of easy mobility, close grocery stores, and entertainment like movie theaters.

  • It might be helpful to make a chart listing each place with a contact name, phone number, and address. You could also include a checklist of desirable features like ramps, good exterior lights, a large den for all the roommates, and a yard. (Don’t forget to ask who’s responsible for keeping up that yard.) You and your child can interview facility managers or meet realtors together.

A Guide on Home Choices

Living Alone

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.

Living With Roommates

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.”

Group Living

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:

  • How do you develop plans for residents with behavior issues? Is person-centered planning an option? How involved are the residents, family, and friends in this planning process?

  • Do you change plans and / or schedules based on the need of the resident? How?

  • What is the visitation policy, if any?

  • How do you build community awareness about this group home here? How would you describe your relationship with the local police, emergency responders, and neighborhood? (Group homes are not always immediately welcomed into a neighborhood)

  • Please describe any group schedules and activities.

  • How can you include our family’s routine that my child is used to? What about when it’s different from your routine here?

Safety First

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.

HCS Waiver and Housing

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.

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Michael Hume