SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - About 10 years ago, two moms shared their concern for their developmentally disabled adult children. Early studies indicated parents would outlive their children, but medical advances began giving them many more productive years. Where would those adults go when their parents die? Who would help them?
The pair contacted other parents and friends to find answers. They formed Southwest Special Care Homes and are nearly ready to open The Branches at Brookline, a group home on a 35-acre tract near Springfield's sheltered workshop.
"Adults with disabilities are living longer, healthier lives," Debbie Dent, the group's president, said. "The concern now is that many are outliving their family caregiver."
Organizers are grateful that the home will open debt-free, she said. A donor gave the land, and the engineering company and an electrician donated some skills and time. The heating and air conditioning unit was donated, and the project received discounts on much of the building materials.
The property included a large barn that will double as a workshop and a place to host craft classes, dinners, birthday parties and other activities and events. Organizers plan to have a garden during growing season. Some residents will work at the sheltered workshop.
The home is divided into two wings featuring eight private rooms, four for men on one side and four for women on the other. Residents will share a large kitchen and living area. Two additional rooms have been set aside for houseparents.
Providing a Christian, family environment is the goal, a place of nurture and support in which developmentally disabled adults can develop their full potential.
"The adults are ambulatory and can take care of their own needs. They just need some help with daily activities," Dent explained. "Houseparents' support will help them meet personal goals."
The caring support will help deal with the impact change can have. "It is a huge change for adults who have lived at home. We wanted to develop a home that would allow families to transition while the parents are still living," Dent explained.
Dent and her husband understand the importance of strong support and know they will face those decisions for their 30-year-old son in the future.
"All of us have support systems...in concentric circles outward, with our families in that inner circle," she said. "We are hoping churches and individual Christians will step up to fill the inner circle of support."
She believes that because of medical advances, the need will continue to grow.
Southwest Special Care Homes is still accepting applications for potential residents. Organizers also are looking for support from individual donors, businesses and churches. "We've seen God leading all the way" to open the facility, Dent said. Now they are concentrating on sustaining the ministry. The home receives no state or federal funding.