Life Sharing is a Community Supported Living option that connects families in the community who want to share their homes with a person with a disability. The goal is to ensure that each person who chooses life sharing as a living option will have the opportunity to reside in a nurturing and caring environment. The phrase "lifesharing" reflects the diversity of relationships, lifestyles and choices offered.
ACHIEVA provides program support to the person with disabilities during the move while he or she becomes comfortable in the new home environment. Support is also offered to the provider family throughout the entire life sharing experience.
How the Process Begins
The Life Sharing process begins when a person indicates to their independent supports coordinator that they are interested in Life Sharing as a Community Supported Living option. This request would then be included in the Individual Support Plan (ISP). The Supports Coordinator (SC) contacts life sharing provider agencies through the Allegheny County Office of Developmental Disabilities. The interested person then has the opportunity to meet with residential providers. The individual, along with their team, chooses the provider that best meets their expressed desires.
Once ACHIEVA is chosen as the provider, a meeting with the person along with their team is scheduled to gather information that is then used to locate provider families. Compatible options are presented to the individual and a meeting with the chosen families is arranged. This process embraces ACHIEVA's philosophy of self-determination and individual choice.
How Families are Chosen
ACHIEVA recruits families through local newspapers, user/provider referrals and speaking engagements at social clubs, churches and schools. ACHIEVA's staff interviews prospective families and evaluates the residence for compliance with state and home safety standards. All family members must complete an initial physical examination and adult family members must have satisfactory criminal and child abuse clearances.
Life Sharing Family Requirements
Once a prospective family is chosen, ACHIEVA provides 24 hours of pre-service training before the person moves into the home. The primary caregiver in the home must complete 24 hours of training annually, thereafter.
The homes are monitored monthly by a life sharing specialist to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the person with disabilities and to provide supports for the provider family. All ACHIEVA Life Sharing homes are licensed annual under Pennsylvania Chapter 6500 Family Living Regulations.
The Benefits of Life Sharing for People with Disabilities
People with disabilities benefit from the personal supports resulting from a family life sharing environment. This arrangement is highly gratifying for both the person and "family". The individual has an advocate who coordinates all supports including medical, dental and psychological care, as well as budgeting and other areas of daily life, as well as the opportunity to belong to a family unit. A family unit's composition varies depending on what the person desires.
The Benefits of Life Sharing for Families
Families receive a monthly allowance from ACHIEVA and room and board from the individual living in their home. Families are also offered any additional training specific to the needs of the person they support.
Families have reported that the people sharing their homes have almost immediately become a member of their family. The individuals share in family events such as holiday celebrations and family vacations.