Thursday, January 6, 2011

Training, New Rules Meant to Reduce Abuse at Adult Family Homes | Seattle Times Newspaper

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By Michael J. Berens Seattle Times staff reporter

In the wake of a yearlong Seattle Times investigation that detailed widespread problems in the adult-home industry, the state has improved training for home owners, made violation reports more accessible to the public and started reporting all abuse and neglect cases to law enforcement.

This 48-hour training course, the state's first at a community college, is just one of many reforms launched this year in the wake of a Seattle Times investigation, "Seniors for Sale," which detailed systemic problems in the adult family home industry.

The Times found that the elderly have been exploited by get-rich-quick profiteers, harmed by untrained caregivers, and ignored by the state even after some died of apparent neglect. Owners even listed elderly residents as commodities in the sales ads for such homes.

The state excused abuse and neglect by owners even when it knew they had lied to investigators, provided falsified medical records or contributed to preventable deaths, The Times found.

Officials at the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, which regulates adult family homes, since have overhauled key programs.

• Adult-home owners now must publicly post state violations they've received so residents and their families can view them.

• Also for the first time, DSHS posts all enforcement actions on its website, which allows the public to more quickly gauge the quality of adult homes.

• DSHS officials now report all cases of suspected abuse and neglect in King County to law enforcement, part of a pilot program launched last month. The Times reported in September that since 2003 at least 236 suspicious deaths in adult homes were never investigated.

"There have been a lot of changes this year that will make this industry better, more accountable and better trained," said Cindi Laws, executive director of the Washington State Residential Care Council, which represents the state's 2,975 adult homes.

Laws said most adult homes provide quality care. Even so, Laws is spearheading a "quick-response team" of experienced home owners who will visit problem homes, provide training and help to correct deficiencies.
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