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Originally published January 30, 2010 at 8:01 PM | Page modified January 31, 2010 at 8:49 PM

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State-required training for prospective owners has serious flaws

Before they can open an adult family home, owners are required, at their own expense, to get 48 hours of instruction from a state-approved trainer. But The Seattle Times has found that more than 200 prospective owners got certified without the 48 hours. Some did not take even a single hour of instruction.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Before they can open an adult family home, owners are required, at their own expense, to get 48 hours of instruction from a state-approved trainer.

The state put this rule in place three years ago as a way to fix the problem of unprepared owners going out of business at a rapid rate. As many as 300 homes fail each year, most within the first two or three years. This disrupts the lives of hundreds of seniors and exposes them to a greater risk of mistreatment, a Seattle Times analysis shows.

Owners of failing homes often cut corners, which can lead to shoddy care, The Times found.

The state's training fix needs fixing itself. The Times has found that more than 200 prospective owners of adult family homes became certified even though they didn't complete 48 hours of training. Some did not take a single hour of instruction.

One trainer insisted on holding classes at a pizza shop, several adult-family-home owners told The Times. The trainer had them fulfill much of their course work by giving them homework, which didn't have to be turned in.

"I've heard horror stories where they go to a coffee shop and they pay up to $900 and get their manual and leave without any formal training whatsoever," says Jack Arntzen, director of the Washington State Residential Care Council, which represents adult family homes.

Marta Acedo, a Department of Social and Health Services manager who supervised the training program before she retired last month, said the agency received dozens of complaints from adult-home owners who reported "wasting their time and their money."

"When we say 48 hours of instruction we mean 48 hours. We don't mean four hours of instruction and go read the manual," Acedo said.

DSHS officials said they are overseeing the training more closely now and terminated the contract of one instructor in November.

DSHS has not set standards for the instruction, other than that trainers must cover a dozen specific topics. Trainers charge anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $950 for instruction, which allows owners to shop for the least-expensive or easiest courses.

DSHS said it "is evaluating" what to do about those owners who received inadequate training.

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