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Making a New Home: Options for Young Adults to Live Away From the Family Home

By Bob Prouty

If families are to help their young adult son or daughter successfully transition to life away from the family home, it is important that they have accurate information about the realistic options available. The systems for providing housing and support services for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD) vary among the states and within individual states, as does the terminology describing the different options. It is very important to establish a good relationship with your young adult’s county case manager (if your son or daughter has none, contact your county social service agency to request that one be assigned) so that you can get a clear and complete picture of all the services and supports for which your son or daughter is eligible, as well as their availability. 

Minimum Standards

In your planning, you should know that publicly-funded services for persons with ID/DD have specific standards set forth in law and court decisions, and you should expect and accept no less:

First Planning

In planning for life outside the family home it is useful to think of two major factors: 1) living expenses and 2) residential services:

Where People Live

Nationally, there are many different names for residential settings and arrangements where persons with ID/DD receiving publicly-funded residential services may live. Excluding family homes, generic nursing homes, and psychiatric hospitals, they fall into three broad categories: congregate care residences, foster care/host family residences, and their own homes. As of June 2004, the following was true of persons with ID/DD living in these settings:

In the past, with the nearly total reliance on congregate care settings, it was common practice to place people with ID/DD in existing residential settings to “fill the beds.” In the early 1980s, with the advent of the Medicaid Home and Community Based waiver, that practice became outdated and ill-advised. It then became possible to provide specialized services to persons with ID/DD in settings of their own choosing. Thus, deciding on a living arrangement first and then arranging necessary services to be brought into that living arrangement is a logical and far more desirable approach than placement simply to fill an empty bed. This does not mean, of course, that there are no limitations to choice. Afford-ability, availability, and eligibility are all real-life factors that must be considered. However, for an increasing number of families and individuals, housing chosen and controlled by the residents, with services selected and managed by the recipients, are worthy goals and realistic options.

Selecting a Residence

In helping your son or daughter to choose a place to live, as you look at each possibility, there are questions you may wish to consider. As you discuss your options later, you can use these points and whatever else you choose to add in making comparisons:


Rarely, if ever, can a parent assume that the essential contacts with adult service programs will be made during the transition process from high school to adult life without the active involvement of the parents. Informed assertiveness on your part is significantly more likely to achieve the desired result as you seek to help your son or daughter find a home in the community with services they need and want.

Bob Prouty is Co-Director of the National Residential Information Systems Project with the Research and Training Center on Community Living, Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. He may be reached at 612/626-2020 or


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Retrieved from the Web site of the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota ( Citation: Gaylord, V., Agosta, J., Barclay, J., Melda, K. & Stenhjem, P. (Eds.). (2006). Impact: Feature Issue on Parenting Teens and Young Adults with Disabilities 19(2). [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration.]

The PDF version of this Impact, with photos and graphics, is also online at

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