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How to Start a Group Home for the Mentally Challenged

To start a group home for mentally challenged patients, you must find the specific requirements based on state, county, and city governments. You must adhere to government requirements and hire qualified staff to help run the facility. This is just a basic overview of what you need to do to start a group home. Make sure to check with your state and local governments to see what specific requirements they may have.

Talk to city officials and local governments about zoning laws and licensing. Some states may require you to write a letter of support in order to open a licensed facility. Once you send that in to your local mental health department, the state may require training and further paperwork. Talking to the Department of Health and Human Services is a good place to start and from there they can give you a more specific idea of what the state and local governments require.

Find a location. Are you going to use your home as a group home or are you going to buy another house to accommodate your patients. Make sure you know the regulations for your state before you set out looking for a new home or decide to use your own. Depending on your state, you may or may not be allowed to have a facility in your personal home, so you need to find out whether it is legal to do so. All homes must go through an inspection process to make sure that they are equipped to accommodate your residents.

Determine what age group you want to work, the severity of their mental challenges, and also the types of challenges you would like to work. For example you may only want to work with adults with cerebral palsy or Down's Syndrome. This will determine what qualifications you want in staff. For example, if are working with adults with minor disabilities, you may not need to hire many staff as they may be able to take care of themselves. However, if you work with patients that are severe, you need to hire staff members based on this need. Most group homes have a patient-to-staff ratio of one to three patients per staff member.

Talk to government agencies that deal with patients that have mental handicaps. They will be able to refer you to patients and staff members. If you go through an agency as far as staffing and clients are concerned, you may even be compensated for your time.

Hire staff based on your needs and requirements mandated by the government. If you are dealing with severely handicapped patients, you need to hire trained professionals such as Certified Nursing Assistants or Registered Nurses who will help you take care of these patients by bathing them, cleaning, administering medication if needed, and other patient care needs.

If you are dealing with teenagers or adults who are only moderately handicapped, hire staff who will help them with the things they couldn't do on their own. All staff should be required to have a knowledge of CPR and basic first aid.

If your patients require full-time care, determine the shifts that your staff should work. If family members are willing, ask for their help during the evenings while most patients are asleep. During the night, you may not need as many staff. Your shifts will be calculated to coincide with your patients needs.

Many times your patients will be referred to you by government agencies whose purpose is to help mental challenged patients. Sometimes those agencies will have case managers available who will contribute to your patients' care and rehabilitation.


With a group home, you will be working with patients from all different cultures and backgrounds. Dealing with them in understanding and compassion can help give them the best care possible.

The application and license requirements included in the resources and references is only a general idea of what the license requirements are. Talk to your state and local governments to find out what specific requirements need to be met before starting the home.


Vanessa Lewis has received a B.A in psychology and creative writing from the University of California, Riverside. She currently works as a child care provider and previously worked as a teacher with children that have developmental disabilities. Lewis has written for her high-school paper and U.C. Riverside's "The Highlander" newspaper for two years.