Website aids adult family home hunt

Service aims to help consumers find right fit for loved one

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

 

A new website developed by a Vancouver gerontologist could help consumers sidestep a middleman in their search for an adult family home for a loved one who needs 24-hour care.

More information

Help in researching adult family homes: Click here.

Has a home been cited for violations? Check out this website.

Unveiled on Tuesday, ClarkCountyAFH.com provides a list of all 300 adult family homes in the county, their addresses and phone numbers, as well as information and a checklist on how to select a facility. Adult family homes that pay a $300 annual fee are featured on the site with photos, video tours and additional details about services and can be searched by special needs, keyword, ZIP code and city.

Gerontologist Gail Haskett said she developed the website as an advertising venue for adult family homes but also as an easy way for consumers to research adult family homes without using the services of a placement agency.

“We are not making any money,” Haskett said. “The fee goes toward making and maintaining the site. Most of it is a public service.”

Haskett said she came up with the website idea while she was searching for a house to buy.

“Working with a placement agency is similar to working with a real estate agent in searching the market,” Haskett said. “Sometimes people like to do their own research. That’s the whole reason I’ve been working for the past two years to pull this together. I thought there’s got to be a better way (than using a placement agency).”

RULES ON PLACEMENT

Some of the new placement agency requirements effective Jan. 1:

• General and professional liability insurance.

• Disclosure statement showing client name and contact information, how the agency’s commission is computed, how often the agent tours provider facilities and whether the agent or his or her family have an ownership interest in a provider facility/company.

• Disclosure of the amount of an agency’s commission upon a client’s request.

• Record-keeping of all referrals for six years.

• Criminal background check every two years.

Placement agencies can do business with nothing more than a business license, though additional requirements will become law Jan. 1. While they generally don’t charge consumers for their services, they receive a commission from adult family homes for their referrals. A typical commission can range from $1,500 to $7,000, Haskett said.

While there are reputable placement agencies, some agents have been unscrupulous due to a lack of regulation in the industry. For instance, some agents have referred clients to adult family homes that pay the highest commissions or convince

clients to change adult family homes to win a second commission, she said. Some placement agencies have their own adult family home and steer clients to those, regardless of whether it’s the best fit, she said.

“It’s been such a rip-off for the general public, and they don’t even know it’s happening,” Haskett said.

The new website provides information on alternatives to adult family homes and has a link to the state Department of Social and Health Services database, https://fortress.wa.gov/dshs/adsaapps/lookup/AFHAdvLookup.aspx, where consumers can find out if an adult family home has been cited for any violations.

Debbie Martin, a former board member with the Washington State Residential Care Council and owner of Maxwell’s Adult Family Home in Orchards, said one of the most frustrating tasks for a family member looking for an adult family home is finding which ones accept Medicaid. Given that Medicaid rules prohibit adult family homes from using benefits to pay placement agency commissions, some placement agencies won’t refer Medicaid patients, Martin said.

“Families can go to the website and see if the adult family home takes Medicaid,” she said.

But the site’s searchable database isn’t comprehensive. Only adult family homes that pay the $300 annual fee — about 25 so far — are part of the searchable database on the website, Haskett said. The other 275 homes are listed on the site with an address and phone number but include no information on special services.

Martin said she also likes that the site gives consumers information on what to look for in an adult family home, how much it should cost and alternatives to adult family homes, such as in-home care.

Claudia Belindean, a Vancouver placement agent, said the new website could eventually reduce demand for placement agencies. But, she said, there still will be a need for placement agents who go on tours of facilities with clients and do research the clients might not have time to do for themselves.

“We will still have a role,” Belindean said.

Another resource for consumers seeking information on adult family homes and alternatives is the Southwest Washington Agency on Aging and Disabilities at 360-694-8144.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://www.twitter.com/Col_Trends;">www.twitter.com/Col_Trends;">http://www.twitter.com/Col_Trends;http://www.facebook.com/ColTrends;">www.facebook.com/ColTrends;">http://www.facebook.com/ColTrends;paris.achen@columbian.com.