FACES Seeking Host Home Providers for Individuals with Disabilities

Lutheran Services of Georgia's FACESIMG_4999 program is actively seeking individuals or couples who would be willing to open their home to an adult with a Developmental Disability.  Caring and committed adults are needed immediately to provide supportive and stable homes for people with special needs. We are especially in great need of homes that provide accessibility for individuals that use a wheelchair for mobility and are in need of assistance with all activities of daily living. We offer ongoing professional training and exceptional staff support to home providers. We also have a need for homes that are willing to provide relief or care for a few days at a time. We believe that everyone deserves the chance to live a meaningful, productive and rewarding life. Can you help?

For further information and program details, please email Jackie Nickens at jnickens@lsga.org or call the inquiry line for the Atlanta office of Lutheran Services of Georgia FACES program 1-800-351-2066 . Please leave your name , full mailing address and email address!

Support Increased Funding for Individuals with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities

By Melissa Austin, Columbus FACES program

Despite advocacIMG_5229y efforts from service providers all across the state, at present there will be no increase in Georgia's Human Service Subcommittee Budget for the NOW/COMP Medicaid Waivers programs. These programs are used to care for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities, including those in Lutheran Services of Georgia's FACES program.

The Service Providers Association for Developmental Disabilities is calling on the Georgia Senate to request a 5% increase in the NOW and COMP waivers which would amount to approximately $8.1 million in state funds. This would also generate an additional $16 million in federal matching funds.

SPADD has created an online petition that will go to key legislators to encourage them to support these Waivers. The goal is 15,000 signatures by Tuesday, March 3.

Since the late 1980s, COMP and NOW have provided critical care services to individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities in a highly cost efficient manner. In 2014, Georgia approved a small funding increase of 1.5%, the first increase in funding for over 25 years.

Providers of these services, including LSG, support approximately 13,000 citizens with developmental/disabilities each year. Providers also employ 13,500 direct service workers and thousands of other personnel. The lack of adequate funding, along with an insufficient minimum wage, have resulted in service providers having to close their doors.

Increasing the COMP/NOW funding by 5% or 8.1 million dollars would allow for expanded services, a stable direct services workforce, and the provision of intellectual/developmental disability services to an additional 7,000 citizens. This is only the second increase request in 25 years and is necessary for providers to remain viable and offer these much-needed services.

Click to sign the petition by March 3, 2015 or visit our FACES page to learn more about how LSG serves individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities.

Wesley's Two Families

Wesley and Medinas Like most birthday parties, Wesley’s 30th birthday party featured colorful balloons, delicious cake, and laughs shared with friends and family. However, Wesley’s party was unique; instead of one family, Wesley had two families celebrating his big day. Through Lutheran Services of Georgia’s FACES (Facilitating Advocacy, Care, Education, and Shelter) program, Wesley has found a second family to provide him with the daily love, care, and support he needs to thrive.

Born in north Georgia in the 1980s, Wesley lived there with his mother for many years. Wesley’s mother loved her son deeply, but her own medical challenges prevented her from fully caring for Wesley, who was born with a developmental disability. She began searching for a place where Wesley would live a safe, happy life with a family to care for him.

In 2005, Wesley entered FACES, an LSG program that provides supportive home environments for individuals with physical, intellectual, and developmental disabilities. He moved in with LSG Support Companion Juana Medina, her husband, and their three children. Earlier that year, a previous Support Companion and friend of Juana’s showed her a newspaper advertisement about FACES. As she learned more about the program, Juana knew she wanted to open her home. “I really love and have a big heart for people with special needs and those who can’t take care of themselves,” she said.

Nine years later, Wesley’s relationship with the Medinas goes deeper than that of a patient and his caregivers. Wesley now treats the Medinas as his second family. Stephanie Furness, his FACES case manager with LSG’s Athens office, noted that, “Wesley has really bonded with the Medinas. He is very loving and affectionate with Juana.”

The Medinas have also grown close to Wesley and see him as a member of their family. Juana reflected, “I am happy to see that a program like FACES exists and can provide a home for people like Wesley. I am thankful to LSG for trusting me to take care of Wesley because otherwise I wouldn’t have gained a new son. Throughout the time Wesley has lived with us, we’ve grown to love and appreciate him. Because of Wesley, I have a bigger heart and compassion for people with special needs.”

Since moving in with the Medinas, Wesley has made significant progress on his personal wellness goals. According to Juana, “When Wesley first came to our house, he was unable to walk. He was very pale and did not smile for almost two months. At three months, he started walking 10 to 15 steps a day. He laughs now and runs and even plays tag with my husband and children.” Wesley has truly found a place where he can thrive.

LSG wishes Wesley a very happy 30th birthday and thanks the Medinas for all their support over the years.

The Incredible Shrinking Man

donald and joyce

By Pat Cumiskey, FACES Case Manager in Augusta

Lutheran Services of Georgia’s FACES program works to give individuals with developmental disabilities the support and tools they need to thrive in their communities. FACES client Donald’s journey is a success story, demonstrating what can happen when one person decides to try to positively influence another person’s life.

Donald was experiencing difficulties living at home and needed structure and guidance, so Adult Protective Services referred him to LSG. When Donald came to live with Support Companion Joyce Lassiter in Hephzibah in August of 2013, he lacked some of the basic skills necessary for him to thrive. His hygiene and self-care skills were very poor and he had minimal social skills. In addition, Donald was significantly overweight, due to unhealthy and uncontrolled eating habits.

After her first meeting with Donald, Mrs. Lassiter realized that he needed more structure to his life and welcomed the challenge. One of the first things she decided to do was to discuss Donald’s capacity for exercise and caloric intake with his primary care provider. She also encouraged Donald to begin a walking program at home and even accompanied him for his walks. Through Mrs. Lassiter’s encouragement to make better eating decisions and limit his portions, Donald has learned to make healthy food choices both at home and when dining out. He began to lose weight and, when people noticed, he became happier about himself.

In June, Donald went to the doctor for a regular visit and weighed in at 100 pounds less than a year ago, an incredible accomplishment, and has gone from a 60-inch waist to a size of 48 inches. Donald looks better, feels better, and it shows in so many ways. He is more sociable and becoming the healthy, happy young man we all hoped he could be.

LSG congratulates Donald for his accomplishments and thanks Joyce for truly making a difference through her care.

Love at the Hatcher Home


Every day, in host homes all across Georgia, Lutheran Services of Georgia’s support companions provide excellent care, love, and belonging for  clients in our FACES program. FACES gives individuals with developmental disabilities the tools and support they need to thrive within their communities. In one Columbus household, Ms. Sarah Hatcher opened her home to two FACES clients who are now considered members of the community and her family.

In January 2013, Ms. Hatcher officially became a Host Home Provider with LSG. Soon after, Nancy B. was awarded her Medicaid waiver to receive services. Before living with Ms. Hatcher, Nancy stayed in a nursing home where staff treated her as if she was fully dependent on their care. As Nancy became part of the Hatcher home, she grew more and more independent. She no longer needs assistance with walking, dressing herself, or other daily living activities. Nancy enjoys her new life with Ms. Hatcher and can converse, write her name, and even read some. During the week, she takes a van on her own to Easter Seals, a day services program which helps individuals with disabilities connect with their communities.

Eventually, in June of 2013, Ms. Hatcher and Nancy agreed to open their home to Carol, another FACES client. Ms. Hatcher quickly observed that Carol had some medical concerns and took her to the doctor. There, Carol was diagnosed with a serious illness. Her doctor required a decision-maker to make medical decisions on Carol’s behalf. Ms. Hatcher was unable to serve as decision-maker, since doing so would be considered a conflict of interest. Fortunately, Ms. Hatcher had done an excellent job integrating both Nancy and Carol into the community and a church member stepped up to assist.

Ms. Hatcher supported Carol through her illness. Because of the ongoing care that Carol required upon leaving the hospital, it was uncertain if she would be able to return to Ms. Hatcher’s home. Determined to continue to provide a home environment for Carol, Ms. Hatcher underwent the training necessary for Carol to move back in. Today, Carol is healthy and lives a happy life with Nancy and Ms. Hatcher, her new family. She recently enjoyed a great 4th of July celebration and is constantly smiling. Ms. Hatcher continues to treat Nancy and Carol like family members, inviting them to family holidays, vacations, and more. The Hatcher home is truly a place of care, community, and love for all three women.

Augusta FACES The Winter Storms

This winter, the weather outside grew frightful as storms swept through Georgia, affecting LSG clients across the state. As the weather worsened, LSG’s Augusta staff worked quickly to ensure that all FACES clients were protected from the storm.  LSG’s Facilitating Advocacy, Care, Education, and Shelter (FACES) program serves individuals with developmental disabilities, creating supportive and meaningful living environments that allow them to thrive.

LSG staff and Support Companions astutely faced the dangerous weather.  LSG staff contacted all Support Companions for an update on their locations and statuses. Together, they also responded a potentially difficult situation with a FACES client.

A female FACES client lost power and staff were temporarily unable to contact her. Vanessa Pooser, a FACES Case Manager, and Pat Cumiskey, the Lead Case Manager and Recruiter, emailed the client’s daughter. The daughter called them to tell them that her mother was at home. Vanessa and Pat contacted a local deputy who sent a car out to check on the client and her host home provider. The deputy helped relocate them to the provider’s brother’s house until they were finally able to return home.

Impressed and grateful, Vanessa said, “Through ongoing back-and-forth communications, I am extremely proud to say that our team was proactive in resolving issues that could have escalated into additional crises.” Thanks to quick thinking and action by LSG staff and Support Companions, all FACES clients stayed warm, safe, and sound during the winter storms.


Angelica at the Prom!

When Angelica and Heather met at Lutheran Services of Georgia’s office in Atlanta on a Saturday in late April, they became fast friends. They were both participants in LSG’s FACES program, which helps individuals with developmental, intellectual, or physical disabilities thrive in their communities. They were both in high school. And, most important, they both loved to dance. During the couple of hours that they stayed at LSG’s office, they rocked out to ’70s music, showing off their dance moves. So it was no wonder when Heather began to talk about her plans to go dancing at the prom a week later. Angelica said that she had never been to prom before, and that gave Heather an idea: why don’t they both go to the dance?

Angelica said that she would love to go to the prom, but that left Mary, the Support Companion who cares for Angelica, in a bind: Angelica had no dress, no shoes, no makeup, and the dance was one week away. Everything worked out in the end, however. Mary gave her a dress to wear, and Angelica found some shoes to go with it. By the time that the night of the prom rolled around, Angelica was more than ready to be there.

That night, Heather and Angelica danced their socks off. According to Angelica, the prom was a blast. After taking pictures and eating dinner, they took off their high heels and put on their dancing shoes. “We danced from 6 o’clock to 10 o’clock nonstop,” she recalled. It was a moment of joy for the two young ladies who loved to dance but who had never been to the prom before. Safe to say, they will probably be going back next year.

Nancy's New Family

Before Lutheran Services of Georgia got in touch with Nancy, she had been living in a nursing home for a long time. Her family did not visit her or care for her, leaving her alone inside the institution. The nursing home staff, moreover, did not have the capacity to help Nancy improve her condition. Nancy got around with a walker, and no one helped her try to walk on her own. Although she continued to get by each day, she was far from thriving in this environment.

After LSG case workers finally learned about her situation, they placed her with a committed support companion, Sarah, who felt that she was called to provide support to those in need of it. During the time that Nancy has been in Sarah’s home, she has learned important daily living skills: to walk independently of a walker, do her own laundry, and read a little bit on her own. She also takes a bus by herself to a day program, where she learns community integration skills, and then finds her own way home again. Whereas the nursing home staff assumed that Nancy could not even walk by herself, Sarah has discovered that with the right support and attention Nancy can indeed become more independent.

But most important, Nancy is part of a family now. Sarah has welcomed her graciously, caring for her as a mother would. Along with Nancy, Sarah also provides support to Britnee, which means that Nancy has more than one person in her new family. Having lived most of her life without anyone to love her, Nancy is now living with two people that she can call family.

Here Comes Santa Claus! Foster Care and FACES Holiday Party

Amid the sweet smells of honey buttered rolls and roasted chicken, the children, participants and families crowded in for a celebration of family, friends, and the holiday season. After greetings were passed, and everyone was all full and fed (the excessive amount of bread pudding was to blame) Old Saint Nick came frolicking in sporting that ever-so-famous white beard and bright-red attire. The children and FACES participants, after tugging on his beard to confirm its “realness,” eagerly awaited their chance to tell him their holiday wishes. After many hugs, jolly laughs, and adorable photographs, everyone settled down for the next activity—the gift raffle. From Museum vouchers to Six Flags tickets, and all the prizes in between, everyone went home a winner! Thanks to our enthusiastic winners, laughter filled the room as those energetic parents entertained the entire party with celebratory dancing! The rest of the night went about in the same lively manner. All in all, due to a great turnout, bountiful amounts of delicious food, and many laughs, the night was a huge success! Thank you to all the volunteers, donors, and families in attendance for another wonderful Christmas Party!

A special thanks to the following organizations/people for their contributions and donations: 1. Six Flags Over Georgia 2. Imagine It! Children’s Museum 3. Alliance Theatre at the Woodruff 4. Center for Puppetry Arts 5. Zoo Atlanta 6. Golden Corral (Jonesboro) 7. Joe Menchoffer (Santa) 8. Women of the ELCA Magi Cluster and friends 9. Sisters of the Good Shepherd Circle of Lutheran Church of the Redeemer

Chad Steinborn is the marketing coordinator for Lutheran Services of Georgia

FACES: A New Family for Johnny

Lutheran Services of Georgia is happy to share the success story of Johnny, a 19-year-old young man in the FACES program for adults with developmental disabilities.  When Johnny was a child, he was taken from his mother’s care after it was determined that her mental health issues prevented her from being able to properly care for her child. Johnny was placed in foster care through the Division of Family and Children Services, then lived in a hospital receiving treatment for his mental health needs. After almost six years in the hospital, Johnny was approved for Medicaid-funded services. Lutheran Services of Georgia helped place Johnny in a healthy, loving home under the care of several support companions. The support companions have provided a caring, stable family life for Johnny and helped him make positive developments through new relationships and experiences. Johnny has been to Florida with his new family several times and was able to see the ocean for the first time. He has learned to prepare some food – he loves to cook on a griddle with supervision from one of his support companions. Johnny, who has had no response to contact attempts with his biological family, considers his host home family his primary family.

LSG Staff Superstar: Nartasha Davis!

Lutheran Services of Georgia would like to recognize Nartasha Davis for her incredible efforts and professionalism.  Davis was one of two providers in all of Region 6, which includes 31 Georgia counties, to receive recognition from the State Regional Office for her commitment to serving people with significant behavioral challenges.  Over the last two years, Nartasha has worked diligently to put the necessary resources in place for LSG’s Columbus office to serve people with behavioral challenges.  She identified and developed contractual relationships with a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.  She works closely with the behavioral specialist to ensure that the needs of LSG’s clients are being met.  Nartasha is able to independently assess people’s needs and put the appropriate supports in place from the ground up. Nartasha carries a caseload of 6-10 clients and has been an extremely effective recruiter of new clients.  Her office went from having little capacity to serve people with developmental disabilities a few years ago, to now having resources and structure to make a difference in many people’s lives.  The quality of support companions and services has greatly increased to the highest standards under her leadership.  Thank you, Nartasha, for all that you do!

FACES: Client Transitions from an Introvert to a Leader!

Diagnosed with mild mental retardation, depression, and schizoaffective disorder, 25-year-old Deborah came into LSG’s FACES program in 2009.  When Deborah first moved in to her new host home, as arranged by LSG, she had a difficult time adjusting to her new life, family, and environment.  Her support companion, Mary, had opened her homes to other FACES clients in the past and therefore had many years of experience in working with participants who have challenging behaviors. At the beginning, Deborah’s behavior was lethargic and she was uninterested in doing things around the home and in the community.  Mary and her family worked each day with Deborah to conquer the issues that prevented her from being happy.  Every time Deborah’s LSG case manager came to conduct a home visit, Deborah would make great strides on her goals.   Currently, Debora’s personality is very outgoing; she is very happy and enjoys shopping.

Deborah also attends a day center, where she learns daily living skills and has been introduced to sign language.  Deborah is capable of speaking but she had always had an interest in learning sign language because she wants to be able to communicate with people who are deaf.  Since she has taken the classes, Deborah has assisted others in teaching basic sign language to people at the day center and at home.

During her time in her host home, Deborah has blossomed to become a beautiful, mature, well-rounded woman with goals, dreams, and accomplishments.  We pray and hope that Deborah continues to grow for many years to come!

FACES: A Safe, Happy Home for Tim!

Tim is an 18-year-old who has a diagnosis of Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome, which causes him to experience delayed growth and development.  He and his siblings were adopted as young children, and as he grew older he began having aggressive episodes toward his family.  Tim did well in school, so the Behavioral Specialist and Psychiatrist felt Tim may do better behaviorally if he lived outside of his home.  His Planning List Administrator contacted LSG to see if there was an available home.  LSG found a home that met CPA requirements and began the matching and pre-placement process, and found a home seemed to be a good match for Tim.  Since his move two weeks ago, Tim has not had any aggressive episodes in his new home and has made a smooth transition to his new school.  Tim not only has the support of his “new” family, but he is able to maintain contact with his biological siblings and adoptive family. LSG is thankful to be able to have found a happy, healthy, and safe home for Tim!

Happy World Social Work Day and Social Worker Appreciation Month!

The month of March is National Social Work month, and this year’s theme is Social Work Matters.  Some social work matters include but are not limited to: adolescent development, aging and family caregiving, poverty reduction, non-profit management, and community development. Social Workers care for people in every stage of life, from childhood to late life, by helping families and individuals overcome life’s most difficult challenges. Some of the troubles that Social Workers work to alleviate include: poverty, stress, discrimination, addiction, abuse, depression, physical illness, unemployment, underemployment, divorce, disability, death, medical conditions, intellectual challenges, and mental illness. Social Workers help ensure the personal well-being of their clients; they prevent crises and counsel individuals and families, as well as make sure people get the help they need from the best resources available. For more than 100 years, Social Workers have been catering to the needs of lower-income families and individuals.

LSG is active in providing superior services in each of the areas listed above, and we would like to recognize all of our exceptional Social Workers at the agency. To celebrate the hard work of these Social Workers at LSG, Foster Care and Family Intervention Services recognizes National Social Work month and invites everyone to make a Social Worker at every level feel appreciated on March 20, 2012, World Social Work Day.

FACES: Introverted Client Blossoms in New Home

When Steve first came into the care of Lutheran Services of Georgia, the only home he had ever really known was the hospital where he had lived for the past 40 years – the one his family left him at when he was only 13 years old.  Autistic and non-verbal, at first glance Steve appeared to be a lost soul. He had no close friends, few interests, and spent most of his time ambling aimlessly around the hospital grounds.  As Steve’s case managers worked to match him with a home, they were unsure about how he would cope with leaving the place he had lived almost his entire life. But on the day of the move, Steve walked out the door with a smile on his face and didn’t look back.  Since moving in with his new family, Steve has blossomed. He has a new job where he earns his own money, enjoys playing basketball with the other guys in the house, and has developed a healthy appetite. Most importantly, for the first time in his life Steve has developed personal attachments with his new family.  It seems after a lifetime of wandering, Steve has finally found a place where he belongs.  One man, one new family, one agency fulfilling its mission to bring people home.

FACES: LSG Client Headed to the Special Olympics!

LSG is thrilled to announce that Brenda Blalock of Loganville,GA, will be attending the 2012 Special Olympics U.S. National Unified Sports Bowling Invitational in Baton Rouge, LA, from Feb. 15-16, 2012. Brenda is a part of LSG’s FACES (Facilitating, Advocacy, Care, Education, and Shelter) program, which helps individuals with developmental disabilities find supportive host homes in which they can thrive.

Brenda has been an avid bowler for several years now and proudly displays her numerous bowling and softball trophies in her home. Brenda is a delight to have in the FACES program and we are proud of her success!

Good luck, Brenda!

FACES: Golf Tournament Brings LSG Supporters Together

FACES State Manager Ryan Whitmire reflects on those he met and made memories with at the October 17th Atlanta Golf Classic 

Yesterday, I had the pleasure to play in the LSG Atlanta Golf Classic at Heritage Links Golf Course in Tucker, GA.  My supervisor and Program ExecutiveGary Johnstone and I were paired with two exceptional supporters of LSG.  It was a pleasure to meet and play golf with Bill Arndt and Jean Mori.  Bill is a former University of Texas football player and graduate.  He is member of Rivercliff Lutheran Church in Roswell, and retired from Lockheed-Martin.  Jean is a Georgia Tech graduate – as a Dawg fan, I will not hold that against him.  He also earned his MBA from Emory University.  He and his wife founded Mori Luggage and Gifts and were recently honored as LSG’s Heroes for Hope, Healing and Strength.

I personally had the most fun playing golf in a long time.  Not only because we shot 12 under par and were “draining” putts from all over the green, but because the conversations and laughs we had.  Though we did not win, it was a beautiful day on the course and we had a great time.   Through the support of great people like Jean and Bill, LSG is able to provide services to people in need all over the State of Georgia.  Without the continued support of great people, LSG could not bring hope and healing through the services we provide.

Thank you to Jean, Bill and everyone that came out to support LSG.

Ryan Whitmire State FACES Manager

FACES: Reflections on the LSG Difference

FACES State Program Director Ryan Whitmire examines the motivations for his work and why Lutheran Services of Georgia stands out from the crowd Since the Facilitating, Advocacy, Care, Education, & Shelter (FACES) program for placing adults with developmental disabilities in loving homes first started, it has been our mission to create meaningful family relationships for the people we serve.  This philosophy is what sets LSG apart from many organizations that provide supports to people with developmental disabilities.

When I first started working for LSG in December 2006, it was clear that LSG was different.  Our meetings were focused on the individuals we serve and the matching process to find the perfect family fit family for referrals.  It was a pleasant transition from looking at potential placements based on an open bed and projected growth goals.

Over the last 10 years, FACES has successfully created real families and homes for the individuals we serve.  Our Host Home providers (caregivers) are special people.  They truly care about the individual and strive to assist the people we serve to reach their personal goals and desires.

Due to Medicaid funding issues, there are thousands of people in need of services, but have no funding.  One way you can help is to get involved with the “unlock the waiting lists” campaign.  With your help, people in need will get the funding and supports they need to start being apart of a new family.

Ryan Whitmire State Program Manager of FACES