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For Some Missourians With Developmental Disabilities, ‘Support Families’ Fill Unique Role

"Restoring Hope" is a private agency that contracts with the Missouri Department of Mental Health and Children's Division to place people with intellectual or behavioral disabilities in stable residential settings.
Restoring Hope New Office
Restoring Hope has staff in Springfield, Kirksville, and West Plains; it plans to expand in Sedelia (photo credit: KSMU, Jennifer Davidson)

Missouri’s Department of Mental Health, as one might gather from its name, serves people with mental illness across the state.  But it also has an entire division dedicated to people with developmental disabilities, like cerebral palsy, Autism, and Down Syndrome. To serve this population, the department contracts with hundreds of private agencies and individuals for treatment, rehabilitation, and in some cases, to even find a home. KSMU’s Jennifer Davidson profiles one of those agencies in this report.

What happens when a little girl with Down Syndrome, for example, is born into a family that just can’t cope with her special needs?  Well, the state of Missouri steps in:  in this hypothetical case, both Children’s Division under Missouri Department of Social Services, and the Missouri Department of Mental Health would work together to find a better place for her.

One agency they turn to is Restoring Hope, which has offices in Springfield, Kirksville, and West Plains. Chuck Swift is co-owner.

“Residential services means, when we get a placement opportunity, we have a couple of options:  one, we will hire a family to allow an individual to move in with them and become their full-time support. We also do what we call individualized supported living arrangements, when we will find a house or an apartment for an individual, and hire staff to come and support them on a 24-hour basis," Swift said.

So, Restoring Hope will actually hire, or employ, a family to become that child’s guardian. That job comes with a salary and benefits. And, Swift says, there’s strict oversight.

“We also do a pretty extensive background check on our families. There are also many trainings required, such as First Aid, CPR, medication administration, behavioral training, positive behavior support trainings, and just a gamut of other types of training that might be specific to help this individual in their home,” Swift said.

A Restoring Hope staff member checks in on families once a week, and the agency is also "on-call" for moments of crisis, or just for encouragement, according to its website.

And it’s not just children:  adults with developmental disabilities get help here, too.

The individual staying in the home qualifies for Medicaid or Medicare, so there’s no medical cost for the family.

Swift says Restoring Hope doesn’t solicit – instead, referrals come to them from case workers, or guardians, for example.

A year ago, this agency occupied one small room in the Ozarks Small Business Incubator, or OzSBI in West Plains, and since then, its services have nearly tripled. Now it’s expanded to a much larger, streetside office. A spokeswoman for OzSBI said Restoring Hope has created 14 jobs in the West Plains area. The agency held a ribbon cutting ceremony for that new office Thursday.

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Davidson.