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Felicia welcomes adult with special needs into her home

Felicia Hughes has a very big heart. It is evident walking into her home, talking about her family and church, and learning about her career working with students with special needs in the Forsyth County school system. Now, she is opening her heart and home to an adult with special needs through Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) Alternative Family Living program (AFL).

“I felt God calling me to work with people with special needs,” Hughes says. “At first I was unsure, but I prayed about it. I believe the Lord was speaking to me and I couldn’t deny it.”

Tapped “Special Families for Special Adults,” BCH’s AFL in-home program connects an individual or a family with a man or woman with special needs. These AFL providers welcome adults with special needs, or members, into their homes, offering a safe, stable living environment. Hughes is BCH’s first AFL provider. The program became part of BCH’s Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities Ministry in October 2022.

An AFL home provides the individual with intellectual and developmental disabilities an opportunity to meld with a family while exploring a new family structure; new school, work, day

and community services, and volunteer opportunities; and other community and family-based activities. In many ways, AFL is comparable to foster care except it is designed for providing a supportive home to an adult with special needs instead of a child.

“I love AFL because it allows adults with special needs to integrate into a family, living in the family’s home, and interacting with them,” BCH’s AFL coordinator Stefanie Effler says.

“Members become part of a bigger community.” Hughes works daily with students with special needs ages 16 to 22. Their needs are varied and some are extreme, but despite the challenges, she has learned their needs come first.

“Meeting needs is a process of adapting,” Hughes asserts. “The key is learning that a person’s developmental needs are not what makes them special. You learn that who they are as people is what makes them special—in so many wonderful ways.”

At times, adults with special needs require a change. A group home setting can be the perfect place but when needs change and they could benefit from more one-on-one care, AFL can provide a better setting—a setting where they can thrive and experience more freedom.

“Felicia’s experience is unique, but it makes her a great fit to be an AFL provider,” Effler says. “Add her positive and loving attitude toward adults with special needs, which we look for in every AFL provider, and we have a winning combination.”

Felicia’s heart for others grew from her childhood. “I need to love others. From the time I was a little girl, I felt a need to help and care for others.”

As an AFL provider, Felicia welcomes the adult with special needs not only into her home but invites the person to become part of her life. Holiday events, summer cookouts, anywhere she is welcome, the member is welcome, too.

It is important to match the right adult with special needs with the right AFL home. Prospective members take part in selecting their AFL home. Provider and member have opportunities to get to know each other before placement. Compatibility is a key to success.

“God does things for a reason,” Hughes says. “When your passion lines up with His calling, becoming an AFL home is the right thing.”

BCH is actively looking for individuals and families to become AFL in-home providers. For more information, contact Stefanie Effler by calling 828-275-3394 or email Effler is also available to speak to church and community groups about this special ministry opportunity.

By Jim Edminson, Charity & Children Editor

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