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What in the World is an Adult Family Home (AFH), anyway?

Coyote House Adult Family Home for Adults with Developmental Disabilities at Tierra Village, Leavenworth Washington

I asked one of our residents what they think an Adult Family Home is. His reply? "Having fun and hanging out with roommates!" You heard it here first, folks. I am often more than a little jealous of our residents' lifestyle, to be honest. Our residents have friends close, tons of activities in the community, nature at their doorstep, and a beautiful place to call home. If you take a tour through our facility, I'd be willing to bet you will be scheming on ways to move in, too.

From the standpoint of Tierra Village, an Adult Family Home is simply that: a home. It is where our residents eat, play, work, sleep and live. It is important to us that residents be given the dignity of deciding what goes on in, and who comes in and out of, their home. This is a significant departure from other forms of supported living, especially when compared with the past.

From the standpoint of DSHS, an Adult Family Home is a residential home operating as a care facility, providing care for up to 6 residents at a time. According to DSHS, there are three designations of Adult Family Homes: Elder Care, Mental Health, and Developmental Disabilities. For our purposes, we will focus on the Developmental Disabilities Designation.

Developmentally Disabled Adults enjoy a professional baseball game in Seattle, WA.

Coyote House:

Coyote House at Tierra Village is an Adult Family Home built in 2013. It is located in Sunitsch Canyon, five miles due north of Leavenworth, WA. Sunitsch Canyon. Tierra Village, a non-profit, consists of our Adult Family Home, Coyote House, our TRAILS educational program and our Employment Services program. 5 of our Care Partner Staff are committed to Coyote house for our 5 residents, currently. Our remaining staff includes an Executive Director, Coyote House Manager, Employment Services Coordinator, an Activities Coordinator, and TRAILS Program Manager.

Coyote House was constructed with the sole purpose of being a care facility. This is rather rare, as most Adult Family Homes are converted from existing residences.

Coyote House came out of the vision of a former special education teacher and a special needs parent, to create an inclusive, land-based, multi-denominational, and financially sustainable community and with the express goal of connecting Special Needs Adults with nature and their community.

Three Developmentally Disabled Adults Snowshoe by a River.

It is our passion to remove the boundaries between our residents and their community. Of course, our location lends itself as much to a community of wild turkey and deer as it does two-legged companions--but we like it that way!

Leavenworth, Washington, happens to have the only three Developmental Disabilities Adult Family Homes in all of North Central Washington. These are Coyote House, Dwelling Place, and Cornerstone. Coyote House has the only bed opening in a DD AFH in Eastern Washington, if not the whole state! If you know someone who might be a good fit, please let us know.

The residents of these homes are all great friends and are integral members of the Leavenworth Community. They work, volunteer, and play alongside their peers, here in our little mountain town. We are spectacularly blessed to have the support that we do.

A group of people enjoys a fire pit.

Who is a good fit?

In general, AFH's are a great fit for just about any level of care needed. What differentiates a good candidate from a not-so-good-one is likability. It is sort of a “secret-hidden-in-plain-sight" that likability skills are learned. Most of us pick them up naturally. But, for Dev. Disabled adults, this takes a very intentional approach. Please see our blog post from last week, "Leaving the Nest..." for more resources on likability. If you check back in here often, you will see this is a recurring theme. In all our programs, residential, vocational, recreational, and educational, we stress these skills on an ongoing basis. Our goal is to support our residents in reaching their highest level of potential.

Many of our residents need absolutely no support around ambulation and daily routines. A higher level of support, for example, is needed regarding how to manage their money, how to get to work or schedule doctor's appointments. While other residents need much more direct, physical support.

From interacting with other homes here in Leavenworth and across the state, I can say that this care model can handle even the most intense care needs, often in a very high-level way, because the ratio of care staff to residents is so low. This advantage over assisted living facilities and other care facility models cannot possibly be overstated.

A group of people gathers at Coyote House Adult Family Home

Problems facing Adult Family Homes:

There is a stigma on Adult Family Homes, on top of the already existing societal stigma placed upon adults with developmental disabilities. This is due to a lot of bad press and a couple of “bad apples”. The majority of homes are run with compassionate staff and competent administrators. However, if one staff member has an issue somewhere, here come the reporters! It is a shame really. These facilities, for the money, are by far the most efficient and effective way to provide housing to populations very much in need.

Another complicating factor for us is that nearly all the resources given by the state are geared toward for-profit, elder-care facilities. It makes sense, the vast majority of AFH's are for the elderly and are for-profit enterprises. We, on the other hand, are non-profit and serve DD adults. We think these elder-care facilities are great but look forward to the day when our dear friends at the AFH council (our lobbying group, please give them your support!) help us get our own, more independent designation. Right now, our care staff trains as Home Care Aids. This certification revolves around tasks associated with convalescence, not thriving young adults.

Look at this fantastic pdf guide on Adult Family Homes by DSHS. All elder care info, all the time. It is our hope to start generating--and to become a repository of--Developmental Disability long term care information. If there are specific resources you or someone you know might find useful and cannot find, please let us know in the comment section below. We would love to have your input!

Developmentally Disabled Adults pose for the camera in the woods.

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