1. Pfeifer, Gail M. MA, RN, news director


Foster care programs offer home-like care settings.


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Although foster care is commonly understood as a living situation for children while family difficulties are sorted out, the idea of adult foster care has received more attention recently. According to the American Elder Care Research Organization, a nongovernmental agency that provides tools for long-term care planning, adult foster care is provided in small (no more than five residents) home-like environments, in contrast to assisted living settings, which tend to be large institutions. The care provided is usually nonmedical, focused instead on assisting residents with activities of daily living.


The concept is not new. A July report on PBS NewsHour highlighted Oregon's adult foster care program, which has been in place for about 40 years. The foster homes are regulated by the Oregon Department of Human Services; they must be inspected and licensed annually; and they must meet structural and safety standards, among other requirements, including background checks on the owner. Regulation of adult foster care programs varies from state to state. They may be regulated by state departments of health, as in Texas, for example, or by departments of licensing and regulatory affairs, as in Michigan.


Adult foster care program details, such as age requirements and services provided, also vary by state. In Minnesota, adult foster care is restricted to older adults and people with disabilities who do not need skilled nursing care. In Massachusetts, people 16 years of age or older are eligible, and the settings are private family homes with "host providers" who provide caring supportive services. Residents range from younger people with disabilities to elders with complex medical conditions. Through the Mentor Network, Massachusetts also has a Family First program that provides 24/7 on-call support to family caregivers from an expert team, a stipend to help with the cost of care, and in-home nursing consultations, among other services.


Massachusetts and more than 30 other states are part of this network, which organizes local health and human services providers to implement a variety of services for those living in adult foster care settings. For information about options in your state, and to determine if it is part of the Mentor Network, go to the state's official government website or to M. Pfeifer, MA, RN, news director