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Growing Together

Group Homes Provide Nurturing, Learning for Disabled Adults

November 05, 1996|SANDY BANKS | Times Staff Writer

It's easy for many of us to take for granted the simplest elements of a typical family life: the chance to sit down together at the table for dinner, to share the chores that keep a household going, to laugh and play at the end of a busy day. But many developmentally disabled adults are shut out of those simple pleasures. They often are shunned by peers because they can't keep up and ostracized by a society in which they do not fit. Many wind up in institutions because their families cannot provide the care they need.

But there is an alternative--group homes that not only nurture like a family, but teach, encourage and support.

Here, in this Chatsworth home, six developmentally disabled men reside together, assisted by Sean and Maria Sullivan, full-time caregivers who live in the home with their son and daughter.

The Sullivans can rely on an array of specialists for help, including a nurse to attend to medical problems as well as speech, occupational and physical therapists to help train the men to meet the physical and emotional challenges they face.

But more than that, the Sullivans provide a place where the men can experience both the joys and frustrations of family life while they learn the skills that may ultimately lead them to make their way more independently in the outside world.

The Chatsworth home is one of 15 operated by Valley Village, a nonprofit corporation formed more than 20 years ago by a group of San Fernando Valley parents to provide education programs and independent living opportunities for disabled children and adults.

Two of the men have lived in the Variel Avenue home for more than 18 years, ever since it opened as a group home for disabled children. Another young man is about to move out, having progressed to the next level of independent living--a condominium that houses three disabled men, supervised by a caregiver living nearby.

"Without homes like this, many of these men would be in institutions, state hospitals like Camarillo," said Valley Village Executive Director Fred Chapa. "They all have limitations, but here they get the chance to make the most of the abilities they have."

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