by Sue Ann Rybak
Blossom Philadelphia, formerly United Cerebral Palsy of Philadelphia, transferred its residential services and 31 community group homes earlier this year to four social service providers: the Barber National Institute, JEVS Human Services, The Salvation Army and KenCrest.
In October 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) revoked Blossom’s license to operate community homes for individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities after inspectors found “gross incompetence” at the nonprofit, which is headquartered in Chestnut Hill.
The Barber National Institute had 27 group homes in Philadelphia, Montgomery and Bucks counties prior to obtaining 10 Blossom group homes. John Barber, chief executive officer at the Barber National Institute, said its mission is to provide “clients with the tools he/she needs to live a life that’s as productive and independent as possible.”
“Each person can be a valuable member of their family, neighborhood, church and school or work,” Barber said. “Our goal is to enable people to live in the community the same way that their family members do.”
The Barber National Institute’s Community Endeavors program is one way the organization seeks to help residents become active members of their community. Unlike most traditional day programs, adults in Community Endeavors spend their day in the community participating in activities of their choice, such as helping to socialize new kittens at the SPCA, taking a trip to Awbury Arboretum or the Philadelphia Zoo.
In regard to the maintenance and cleanliness of the home, Barber said that each group home should be the functional equivalent of a family home.
“The home should be the kind that I would want to live in,” he said.
He added that clients should be “engaged in all the ordinary day-to-day activities that a family would.”
JEVS Human Services, another nonprofit social service organization that has residential homes in Philadelphia and Montgomery County, also acquired 10 Blossom group homes.
Kristin Rantanen, senior vice-president for public affairs at JEVS Human Services, said the organization had 30 residential group homes before it was approached by the state about taking some of Blossom’s former community homes.
“We have a long history of working in this area of residential services,” she said. “What really drives our work is a commitment to ensuring that folks have the opportunity to live as independently as possible and that they are able to take advantage of all the natural supports within a particular community. That has been at the heart of our work with people with disabilities, whether it’s residential living arrangements or a vocational program, our mission is really about maximizing independence and quality of life.
When the state approached us to determine our interest in taking on more of these homes, to be perfectly honest, it wasn’t a surprise, because we are absolutely committed to individual dignity.”
She said the acquisition of the 10 homes allowed the nonprofit “the opportunity to offer more permanent opportunities to JEV employees.”
“Continuity of care is important because it impacts the quality of the care,” she said. “It gives the direct service professional, the caregiver, an opportunity to really get to know the client. It also allows the care group to work as a team to support the client. It does improve the quality of life for
the consumer, but it also improves the quality of care that we are able to provide. It helps to mitigate some of the challenges of taking over these homes with brand new consumers that, frankly, we need to get to know.
“Our staff that does this work will tell you it’s God’s work. The quality of our staff and the work that they do is one of the things that help clients reach their goals. That was really important because we knew we were going to a situation where there were issues. We wanted to make sure we hit the ground running with staff that, where we could, had some work history with us.”
The Salvation Army, which runs 25 residential group homes throughout Pennsylvania and an additional 16 homes in Delaware, also acquired three residential group homes.
“Our philosophy in terms of The Salvation Army’s Developmental Disabilities Program (DDP) is to enable people with disabilities to live as citizens in their local communities, in an atmosphere of dignity and respect,” said Phil Pagliaro, division director of marketing and organizational development at The Salvation Army.
“The Salvation Army is dedicated to serving the community by recognizing the gifts that each person brings to their home and community and by supporting efforts to achieve their own potential goals,” he said. “We feel at this given time, we are able to accommodate a total of three group homes for a total of nine individuals.
“Our staff is fully responsible for the health, safety and well-being of the people in our program,” he said.
When asked about the training employees receive, he said that staff receives training in just about every area including medication administration, fire safety and medical technology.
The fourth nonprofit social service provider is KenCrest, which has residential group homes in Pennsylvania in Bucks, Chester, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. It also has houses in Delaware and in Connecticut.
The nonprofit whose mission is to support “community development by exploring possibilities, mobilizing resources and empowering dreams” secured eight residential groups from Blossom Philadelphia.
In an earlier interview with the Local, Marianne Roche, an intellectual-disabilities expert who worked in the field for 50 years, said she and other advocates hoped that “the change in providers offers good services and safety for people with intellectual and physical disabilities and restoration of trust.”