Blue Ridge Services
1. How long does it take to become a sponsor? How long after I am certified as a sponsor does it take before an individual may choose to live in my home?
From the time your Application for Employment is received, expect the development process to begin within 6-8 weeks. Once development begins, it usually takes a candidate 2 months to complete (candidates in the Tidewater region of Virginia require 2-4 months to complete development). These standard timeframes assume that you don't run into complications which will further extend your development process, e.g. failing tests during training and having to schedule re- takes, background check result considerations, etc. It is the "matching" process, where we work to find the most compatible sponsor/sponsored-individual relationship before initiating services at your home, which takes the longest period of time (anywhere from 2-12 months, so the sponsor candidate must be financially able to complete development and wait for service initiation; also see FAQ#2).
2. I work full time at present but want to become a sponsor. May I keep my full time job and be considered as a sponsor? If not, is there transition time before bringing someone into my home and working out a notice with my current employer?
Becoming a Sponsor is a full time job. As a general rule, this becomes your only job. Depending on the needs and preferences of the individual choosing your home, we will work out those details with you before a final decision is made for the individual to move--one that is mutually acceptable to all parties.
3. Is there training involved? How much? What kind of training?
Blue Ridge Associates (the term "Associate" applies to both Residential Sponsors and Residential Specialists/staff) must be trained and regularly recertified in CPR, First Aid, Medication Management, TOVA (Therapeutic Options of Virginia, a behavior-management skillset), Human Rights, MR-Waiver, and our own General Orientation. Initial training requires a commitment of 7 days by the prospective Associate. Blue Ridge provides the training. Please see the "Minimum Requirements" for more information about the training requirement.
4. If I currently work in the field of health or human services, does any of my training "cross over" or do I have to take your entire training program?
Unexpired training certificates in CPR, First Aid, Medication Management and TOVA all "cross over" (documentation must be provided to verify validity of certification). All Blue Ridge Associate candidates must take General Orientation (which includes the MR-Waiver and Human Rights training). The term "Associate" applies to both Residential Sponsors and Residential Specialists/staff.
5. Do you provide sponsored residential services for people of all ages?
No. Blue Ridge provides certified sponsored residential services only to individuals who are age 18 or older. Only one DMHMRSAS-licensed agency in Virginia is allowed to provide sponsored residential services to children under 18 years of age.
6. May I choose who comes to live in my home?
Once you are certified as a Sponsor, it is the "matching" process, where we work to find the most compatible sponsor/sponsored- individual relationship before initiating services at your location, which takes the longest period of time (anywhere from 2-12 months). That process weighs your input along with the preferences of the individual to receive support services, so that when a "match" is made, it is mutually agreeable.
7. How do individuals who are looking for services find Blue Ridge? Where do referrals come from?
Individuals seeking residential sponsored services as an alternative to congregate residential services may be referred to us by friends or family, current sponsors or other mutual contacts, but ultimately, the case manager at the local Community Services Board or the DD- waiver Support Coordinator (case manager) must offer choice of all available vendors of requested service. Blue Ridge does not conduct regular marketing-type activities. Residential Sponsorship is growing on its own, mostly by word-of-mouth information sharing, because individuals who explore their options often conclude (as we do!) that residential sponsorship is the preferred method for receiving support services.
8. Do an individual's family members come to visit once the individual is living in my home? Are family members involved in the sponsored situation on a regular basis?
Some family are very involved and some are not, but individuals have the right to invite friends or family to visit as often as they wish, and we at Blue Ridge encourage continued involvement with natural supports for the individual choosing services.
9. If the Individual receiving sponsored services from me has a job or goes to school or other day programs, will they continue that once I become their sponsor? Do I provide their transportation to that?
An individual may wish to continue their job or school or day support program once they begin receiving sponsored residential services. Or they may not! It is up to the individual's choice, with assistance from their case manager. Some individuals have a pre- arranged contract for transportation, particularly if there are special needs related to transportation, but some will require their sponsor to provide transportation. This consideration would be part of the "matching" process, looking at your compatibility with an individual seeking sponsored services.
10. How much does sponsorship pay?
The rate of pay for residential sponsorship depends on the complexity and intensity of services needed for the individual being sponsored. Lease agreements for monthly rent are also signed between Blue Ridge contractors (sponsors) and the individual receiving services (see FAQ#11). In general, if you are seeking a position where you will help others and make a fair income doing it, residential sponsorship may be a good match. If money is your primary motivator, the money you make will never be "enough".
11. Besides the start-up costs listed in the "Minimum Requirements" link of the on-line Employment Application, what other expenses will I incur? Are expenses related to the individual reimbursable?
For most individuals receiving sponsored residential services, all medical issues are paid for by Medicaid (e.g. doctor appointments, medicines, wheelchairs, medical beds or accessories). While the sponsor is to provide a fully-furnished room for the individual (bed, chests of drawers, dressers, closet, chair), if there are special medical or health equipment needs, the sponsor is not required to pay these costs. The reimbursement to Blue Ridge for payment of our contractors (sponsors) is for provision of specialized services. In Virginia, "room, board and general supervision" is not covered. However, each individual signs a lease agreement for rent that is specified in Blue Ridge policy and procedures.
12. Do we have to wait a month in order to receive payment for services that we have provided, or do we receive payment prior?
Payment for services is made to you once Blue Ridge receives reimbursement for claims submitted on your behalf to third party payors after you have provided documentation to verify billing. Here's how it works: you send us the month's services billing, we invoice the Individual's funding source for those services, and when we receive payment of that invoice, you will be paid. The interval between billing and payment depends on when you enter the monthly cycle as a new sponsor.
13. Will a criminal conviction in my background prevent me from becoming a Sponsor or Residential Specialist?
Possibly. Please see the "Minimum Requirements" to determine whether your conviction is a barrier crime per Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services regulations which would disqualify you as a candidate. Most barrier crimes have no statute of limitations. In other words, no matter how old the conviction, and no matter what rehabilitation you have undergone, barrier convictions in your record (or members of your household's records, if you are applying to be a Sponsor) still prohibit you from certification as a Blue Ridge Associate. There are no exceptions to this requirement. The term "Associate" applies to both Residential Sponsors and Residential Specialists/staff.
14. Must each Blue Ridge Associate have a driver's license?
Yes. Candidates without a current driver's license and automobile insurance are ineligible to provide direct care services because the ability to drive is especially critical in responding to an emergency. All Associates must provide a DMV transcript of driving history at every license renewal, too, to ensure a safe driving record is maintained. The term "Associate" applies to both Residential Sponsors and Residential Specialists/staff.
15. Do I have to be married to be a sponsor? Can a single person be a sponsor? If I am married, do both of us have to be sponsors, or can one person be "primary" and the other person be "back-up"?
Sponsors may be single or married, as both are required to meet minimum weekly respite requirements. All sponsors must recruit their own Staff (who are also trained and certified by Blue Ridge) to employ in meeting those requirements. If you are married, both spouses can be co-sponsors, or one spouse can be full-time and the other spouse can be part-time. Your definition of your roles needs to be finalized during your initial interviews. Also, a spouse may choose not to participate in providing direct care services at all, while the other spouse works as the Sponsor. All occupants of sponsored residential locations must meet the Background and PPD/TB requirements listed in "Minimum Requirements" on the on-line Employment Application Wizard.
16. Once I become a sponsor, if I have a baby or other change to the number of members in my household (e.g. exchange student, or family member moves back home temporarily), do you need to know?
Yes. Blue Ridge should be contacted immediately upon births, deaths, move-outs, move-in's, etc. Changes to occupancy of Locations certified to provide direct care services may require a new property study, and may also affect compliance with DMHMRSAS Office of Licensing requirements for living, bathroom and bed space available.
17. Do I have to be a certain age to be a sponsor? (Is any age too old? Is any age too young?)
See the "Minimum Requirements". The minimum age for Blue Ridge Associates is 18. There is no maximum age limit. The term "Associate" applies to both Residential Sponsors and Residential Specialists/staff.
18. If I have physical limitations, am I still eligible?
Candidates are asked to disclose (on the Employment Application and during the Property Study) any physical or mental health issues which may affect quality of services being provided. If you have a condition which would limit the range of services you could provide, or your ability to complete training, Blue Ridge needs to know before you enter training and development.
19. I haven't graduated from high school. Am I eligible to work as a Sponsor or Residential Specialist? What if the individual to receive services is a family member, and I have a lifetime of experience in providing their services? Doesn't that "count" as education?
All Blue Ridge Associates (the term "Associate" applies to both Residential Sponsors and Residential Specialists/staff) must have obtained either a high school diploma or GED. While it seems illogical to reject the life experience of a family member as a substitute for the diploma or GED, we are not free to do otherwise, as per policy. This doesn't mean that the family member can't continue to assist in caring for the individual. It just means that the family member may not do so under the auspices of Blue Ridge. If your home becomes a sponsored Location, it will also mean that there are some tasks which must only be completed by a certified Associate. Be sure to discuss these questions at your initial interviews, if applicable.
20. I have kids. Can I still be a sponsor?
Finding a compatible match between an individual to receive sponsored residential services and the right sponsor must include considerations about minor residents at the sponsored location. We consider whether the individual wants to live in a home with kids, and we also consider whether there are safety concerns (for the children or for the individual to receive services). At Blue Ridge we support a number of individuals for whom living with children would not work well for them or family. We discuss with you whether your role as a parent would hinder your ability to provide certain kinds of services. We are required to explore whether your children understand the circumstances of sponsorship, and are open to the idea. Generally, because it involves special considerations like these, expect that having children will delay service initiation at your sponsored location (often by many months).
21. Once I become a sponsor, how does it work if I have to move?
Blue Ridge must be notified of your plans to move or to begin major construction on a Location certified for residential sponsorship. This notification should be made no later than 3 months prior to the move date (or to the date when construction is to begin).
22. My family is busy. Can the individual who comes to live in my home keep up with our schedule and go everywhere with us?
An individual chooses your certified Location over another according to their preference, and according to a "matching" process administered by Blue Ridge to ensure the Location and Sponsor(s) are a good match with the Individual's needs. We can then proceed with the service initiation process at that Location. The "matching" process involves much discussion about how the schedule of your family and the schedule of the individual receiving services will be blended. It helps to remember the arrangement in its purest business terms: residential sponsorship is a career, your home becomes a certified business location, and the individual receiving services is the "customer", all of which must be considered in the blending of the sponsorship requirements and your family's schedule.
23. I like to travel a lot. Could a sponsored individual go with me? (is that 'allowed'?)
[Also see FAQ#24] If you invite the sponsored individual to join your family on trips or vacations, and the individual is physically able to do so, the individual may choose to accept your invitation but you, as the sponsor, must guarantee continuity of services during the trip. If the sponsored individual chooses not to join you on vacation (if invited), the individual may receive continued services at your home from certified Staff while you are absent. Consider that the individual receiving services in your home may have had limited opportunity for travel prior to living with you, and the exposure to new places and experiences will likely be an enrichment to their lives.
24. Is this a 24-7 arrangement? (Can I take breaks or vacations? How does that work?)
An individual receiving direct care services at a sponsored residential location basically becomes like part of the sponsor's family. The sponsored location is the individual's home, and while direct care services are not necessarily provided around the clock (unless the individual's plan specifically requires it), the sponsor and the sponsored individual live together in community full- time. If you invite the sponsored individual to join your family on trips or vacations, and the individual is physically able to do so, the individual may choose to accept your invitation but you, as the sponsor, must guarantee continuity of services during the trip. Sponsors are required to meet minimum weekly respite requirements (see FAQ #15), and to recruit their own Staff (who are also trained and certified by Blue Ridge) to employ in meeting those requirements. If the sponsored individual chooses not to join you on vacation, the individual may receive continued services at your location from certified Staff while you are absent.
25. Do you operate Group Homes? Can I get licensed through Blue Ridge to operate a group home? How many people can I take care of?
No. Please read the information on our website home page for a better understanding of our philosophy, but in general, we believe that residential sponsorship provides a higher quality alternative to those adults who choose it over other congregate models. The question "how many people can I take care of" also would indicate to us that your motivation for applying may be less focused on serving the needs of individuals who use Blue Ridge for services and more focused on maximizing income, which may mean that residential sponsorship is not for you. We'd definitely want to discuss this topic with you, to determine if you are a good "match" with Blue Ridge. By the way, our Associates don't "take care of" individuals. They "provide direct care services" to those individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who select the residential sponsor model as their preferred living arrangement in which to receive supports.
26. Can I do this if I live in another state?
Blue Ridge is licensed to certify sponsored residential locations with the Commonwealth of Virginia. Some other states do offer programs that look similar to sponsored residential. The answers to these FAQs may or may not apply to services offered outside Virginia.
27. How is sponsorship monitored? Will I receive visits from the government agencies involved, or from Blue Ridge? Will they be announced or unannounced, and how frequent are they?
Locations certified to provide sponsored residential services are regularly monitored by Blue Ridge and by the Virginia Office of Licensing, which is part of the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services (DMHMRSAS), and also by the funding-source agencies. Blue Ridge monitors our Locations to ensure compliance with regulations so that these audits by licensing & funding agencies are successful. Visits are both announced and unannounced. Blue Ridge visits sponsored locations multiple times a month. Visits by licensing & funding agencies do not have a predetermined frequency.
28. Is there a 24-7 emergency contact # if I have problems once I become a sponsor?
Yes. Blue Ridge always has someone "on-call" as your emergency resource (either your Regional Coordinator, or if someone else is assigned for a particular day, that information is available on our voicemail system).
29. How long will I be a sponsor? Is it "for life"?
That depends on you, and on the desires of the individual receiving your sponsored residential services! The individual has the option to select another services provider, and you have the option to end your sponsorship tenure. Many individuals who come to Blue Ridge seeking sponsored residential services have moved often and are looking for a more stable arrangement. We hope that those we certify as sponsors are also looking for something long-term, to provide that kind of stability.
30. If an individual moves in with me and it doesn't work out, am I obligated to 'stick it out'?
Your Regional Coordinator is your best resource once you become a sponsor. The RC needs to know of any problems right away, so we can work with you and with the individual receiving services to come up with a solution to the problem. We work hard to make a compatible match between individuals and their sponsors, but we will work just as hard once the match is made to help both of you transition smoothly into your new situation. Nevertheless if, after time and an investment of such efforts, the individual chooses to select another service provider, or you determine that the match is not right for you, arrangements can be made to terminate the sponsorship. If an individual is having any challenges in a particular location, we look first to make changes in the environment, training of the sponsor and staff and adding more supports from various sources as needed. We are not in the business of moving people to "fix" the problem.
31. As the sponsor, do I provide beds and other furnishings for the individual receiving services, or do they provide their own?
Sponsored residential locations are governed by similar regulations to larger DMHMRSAS-licensed agencies in issues such as this one, i.e. the individual's fully-furnished room would be provided by the Location management (i.e. the residential sponsor). However, the individual will bring their personal belongings to their new home at the sponsored location which, in a few cases, may include furnishings. While the sponsor is to provide a fully-furnished room for the individual (bed, chests of drawers, dressers, closet, chair), if there are special medical or health equipment needs, the sponsor is not required to pay these costs.
32. Is it a problem that we only have one bathroom?
This is one of the topics that will be covered during your initial interview. There are minimum requirements about bathrooms at licensed sponsored residential locations: there must be no more than a 4:1 ratio of people:bathrooms (i.e. if you already have 4 people in your house with 1 bathroom, accepting an Individual into your home for services would put your ratio at a non-compliant level of 5:1, requiring the installation of an additional bathroom). Also, the Individual must be able to access the bathroom without having to go through someone else's room.