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Questions to Ask when Evaluating Adult Programs

Choosing the right day habilitation program for your adult child requires careful research and consideration. Let's explore essential steps to research, including eight important questions to ask day habs as you search.

For young adults with disabilities who also have medical issues, day habilitation (day hab) services can play an important role in their life after high school. A day hab’s main focus is maintaining participants’ health. Participants in day habs often engage in the community once per week, or less frequently if they have complex needs that require high staff ratios and specially equipped vehicles. Service plans, with measurable goals and objectives are developed, along with program activities and therapies necessary to meet service plan goals. 

Day hab programs can vary widely, so it’s important to find the right program for your adult child. You will work closely with your state’s Department of Developmental Services to select one that is the best fit, but you can also do research yourself, and you should! 

Finding the right day hab will be impacted by where your adult child resides (at home, in an adult foster care home, in a group home, etc.) and available transportation resources to travel to and from the Day Habilitation program. Each state’s DDS parameters around this may be different, and the agency will be able to provide you with information on the programs in your adult child’s geographic region.

Transition tip

If there isn’t a good match in your area, you may ask your transition case manager to explore adult programs outside your region.

It is important to note that while you will work closely with your state’s DDS to research day habs, DDS does not usually pay for day habs – Medicaid does. When a day hab is exclusively chosen, the individual usually has no funding attached to their name from DDS. Transportation and 1:1 staffing for a day hab are typically all paid by Medicaid.

Start your research with State Resources

Begin your research by exploring resources provided by your state’s Department of Developmental Disabilities or similar agencies. These organizations often maintain directories of licensed day habilitation programs, complete with contact information and program details. Your transition coordinator can guide you based on programs that fit your child’s needs. They also have current lists of openings in such programs.

Visit Program Websites

Explore the official websites of prospective day habilitation programs. Look for detailed information on their mission, services offered, staff credentials, and any success stories or participant testimonials. A well-maintained and informative website often reflects the program’s commitment to transparency and communication.

Transition tip

Waitlists do exist in some cities and states. Ask your Department of Disability case manager which programs you may visit that are potential fits. Waitlists change, so be patient and persistent.

Eight Questions to Ask when Evaluating Day Habilitation Programs

Researching day habilitation services will raise many questions essential to understanding what program will be the best match for your adult child. By posing thoughtful questions, you will learn about the programmatic structures and effectiveness, and the overall experiences of adults in day habilitation services. Here are eight questions that are helpful to ask.

1. What services are offered?

Clarify the range of services provided by the day habilitation program. Ensure that the program aligns with the specific needs, interests, and goals of your young adult.

2. What are the staff’s areas of expertise and how is their training being applied?

You’ll want to understand the standard of direct care, including staff nurses, PT and OT consultants, program directors and assistant directors. Understanding the expertise on the team can give you confidence in the quality of care and support offered. You’ll need to visit and observe in order to see how the staff’s training is applied to the participants. 

3. What are the daily activities and structure of the day?

Gain insight into the daily routine and activities offered by the program. Are they well-structured and varied? Daily/weekly schedules should be posted; if not, ask for a copy. You may want to inquire how your young adult will access the schedule.

On the first day at school, Zachary, a student in the Secondary Program, practices chords on the guitar during a one-on-one lesson with Perkins Music Director Arnie Harris.
4. What is the participant-to-staff ratio?

Ask about the participant-to-staff ratio (especially for direct support workers) to ensure that individuals receive personalized attention and support throughout the day. Does the staff ratio change when out in the community? If my adult child needs additional support for some activities of daily living, how does that work?

5. How does the program provide community integration?

 Inquire about the program’s efforts in community integration. Activities that encourage socialization and inclusion in the broader community are crucial for personal growth.

A teenage boy works with other teenage students to row a boat.
6. What is the communication and feedback?

 Understand how the program communicates with participants and their families. Regular updates, progress reports, and a feedback mechanism contribute to a collaborative and transparent environment.

7. What safety measures are in place?

 Discuss safety protocols and measures in place to address emergencies or unexpected situations. This is particularly important for individuals with specific health or safety considerations.

8. Are there different cost and funding options?

Clearly understand the program’s cost structure and inquire about available funding options or financial assistance. This ensures that the program is financially viable for your unique situation.

Resources for researching day habilitation programs

Finding day habilitation programs in your state often involves exploring resources provided by state agencies, disability service organizations, and online directories. While the specific websites can vary by state, here are some general strategies and websites that can help you in your search:

State Department of Developmental Disabilities or Human Services

Start by visiting the official website of your state’s Department of Developmental Disabilities, Human Services, or a similar government agency. These departments typically provide information about licensed day habilitation programs, eligibility criteria, and other relevant details.

Medicaid website

Depending on  your state, many day habilitation programs receive Medicaid funding. Check your state’s Medicaid website for information on Medicaid-funded day habilitation services and providers.

State/local organizations that focus on your young adult’s particular disability

Explore websites of disability-specific organizations in your state, such as The Arc or local advocacy groups. These organizations often provide resources and information about various services, including day habilitation.

Local Support Groups and Forums

Engage with local disability support groups,  social media forums, or social media communities. Members often share their experiences and recommendations for day habilitation programs in the area.

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