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Opening One’s Home to Those in Need

October 24, 2013 5:17 pm0 commentsViews: 214
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AccessServicesProfile-1In 1976, a group of Christian social workers in Pennsylvania became frustrated by the callous nature of services provided for individuals with mental retardation in their community. They formed Access Services to develop innovative ways to better meet their needs. The organization’s primary goal, then and now, has been to provide more than basic care for individuals with special needs—to provide them not just with food, clothing and shelter but to help them live rich and fulfilling lives.

One way that Access Services strives to accomplish this is through its Lifesharing program, which seeks out caring, qualified families to open their hearts and homes to a child or adult with special needs. “The core of the program,” said Rob Reid, President and CEO of Access Services, “is connecting the person to an active, healthy and fulfilling life in a real community, instead of being in a group home or institution, where an individual is often lonely and isolated.”

The need is urgent, as Mr. Reid pointed out in an interview with The Levittown Leader. “There are some 17,000 individuals across Pennsylvania on the ‘critical waiting list,” he said. “These are people who need services and aren’t getting them.”

AccessServicesProfile-2The stable, caring environment of a genuine family home, whether short-term or long-term, can make an enormous difference in the life of a special needs person. “Our families come in all different shapes and sizes,” said Kathy Trumbore, Lifesharing Director. “And once our individuals move in to the home, they truly become a member of the household.” (The photos accompanying this article are of actual Lifesharing families; they are not staged.)

Host families receive a flat, tax-free payment—ranging from about $1300 to $1700—which can augment their incomes and reimburse them for the costs of their food and utility bills. Host families are not responsible for paying for the clothing needs of individuals staying in their home. The individuals receiving services typically have their own insurance and are responsible for all related co-pays and expenses, including medication. Lifesharing families receive up to 30 days (accrued at 2.5 days/month) respite/vacation per year as well.

Access Services has a community liaison who helps arrange the match and continues to help and communicate with the host family. “We at Access Services greatly value our partnership with our host families,” as stated on their website,  “and we are committed to supporting them as we seek to meet the needs of the adults and children in their care. We come alongside of our host families to provide guidance, technical assistance, and after hour on-call support. We have a reputation of unwavering, ever-present support, particularly in the midst of challenges that may arise.” Host families also have access to 24 hour on-call support by telephone and at the home, when needed, as well as to many training opportunities.

A prospective host family is required to have a valid driver’s license and reliable transportation. Household members will need physicals, showing that everyone is free from communicable diseases. Various clearances and references are also required. “It is important that your family has sufficient income to meet the financial needs of your household without relying on the reimbursement you will receive for providing care and support to the individual placed in your home.”

Every individual with special needs is entitled to a supportive community and the opportunity to lead a rich, fulfilling life. From children in need of foster care to adults with developmental challenges, everyone has the potential to overcome tremendous adversity. They only need a helping hand to open the door and show them the way.

For Rob Reid, the Lifesharing mission is more than just a job; it is a way of life. For more than ten years, Rob and his wife Judy opened their home as Foster Care and Lifesharing providers. “The most rewarding moments,” he said, “come when you see people make positive changes in their lives and realize you played an important role.”


For additional information about Access Services and its Lifesharing Program, call the main office in Fort Washington, PA at 800-793-2150 or visit www.AccessServices.org to complete the Host Family Inquiry Form.

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