How To Start a Residential Group Home in Virginia

How To Start a Residential Group Home in Virginia

Establishing a residential group home in Virginia involves the completion of numerous procedures. These include getting hold of the necessary licenses, fulfilling zoning regulations, and ensuring adherence to state regulations. Here is a detailed guide on how to start a residential group home in Virginia.

What are the age requirements for starting a group home in Virginia?

If you would like to establish a residential group home in Virginia, you must be at least 18 years old. This suggests that the services and operations of these homes cater to adults or, in certain situations, children. Therefore, those who operate these homes must also meet the minimum age requirement. By doing so, you can legally manage and provide care within these facilities.


What are the different categories of group homes in Virginia?

You need to choose the type of group home you are interested in developing. There are different kinds of group homes in Virginia based on who they house:

  • Group Homes for Individuals with Cognitive, Intellectual, or Developmental Disabilities
  • Assisted Living Facilities for Elderly, Infirm, or Disabled Individuals
  • Assisted Living Facilities for Seniors (62 Years of Age or Older)

You must also remember that each type has specific requirements and regulations.

What are the legal and regulatory factors to consider when setting up a residential group home in Virginia?

Establishing a residential group home in Virginia requires you to fulfill many legal and regulatory obligations. Only then can you guarantee adherence to state statutes and provide members with a secure and encouraging atmosphere. The following is a comprehensive summary of these factors:

1. Licensing Requirements

The Department of Social Services (DSS) is the exclusive licensing agency for children's residential facilities, providing licenses for up to 36 consecutive months. This includes group homes that offer social service programs and excludes educational programs approved by the Department of Education and institutions overseen by the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Make sure you familiarize yourself with the criteria established by the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) for the operation of a residential group home.

Learn about the license standards set by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS), the agency in charge of places that help people with intellectual or developmental challenges.

If you need further assistance with understanding the rules and regulations of residential group homes in Virginia, book a free call with our licensing experts, here. 

2. Regulatory Standards

Regulations Regarding Health and Safety

The health and safety of minors must be the primary concern of the board's regulations. These regulations encompass a variety of components, including;

  • Accommodations and Structure: Facilities must adhere to specific structural standards that are appropriate for the children's requirements.

  • Activities and curfews: Local governments or the facility may implement regulations regarding permissible activities, study hours, recreational activities, and nighttime hours.

  • Community Liaison: A community liaison is required at each facility to cultivate collaborative relationships with the broader community, local law enforcement, institutions, and government officials.

3. Policy Development

Develop comprehensive policies and procedures encompassing all aspects of residential group home operations, including resident admissions, discharge protocols, emergency response plans, and staff conduct guidelines.

It is very important to adhere to rules and regulations when operating a residential group home in Virginia, and it can be overwhelming. But you don’t have to figure out everything alone. Check this pre-made Group Home policy and procedure manual template which can ensure you remain compliant and make your licensing process much easier!

4. Application Submission

Complete the requisite licensing application provided by the VDSS. Ensure all required documentation, including background checks, facility floor plans, staff qualifications, policies and procedure manual are meticulously prepared and submitted along with the application.

5. Facility Inspection

Following the submission of your application, the VDSS will conduct a comprehensive inspection of your proposed facility. This inspection evaluates the physical environment, safety measures, and adherence to regulatory standards.

6. Conditions for Initial Licensure

  • Personal Interview: Department personnel will conduct an in-person interview with applicants to evaluate their qualifications before issuing an initial license.
  • Relevant Experience: Applicants must submit evidence of pertinent prior experience before receiving an initial license.
  • Training of Staff: Evidence of staff participation in training sessions on a variety of subjects, including the appropriate situating of residential facilities, good neighbor policies, community relations, and so on.
  • Screening of Residents: Facilities must conduct a pre-admission screening of prospective residents to identify those who have behavioral issues that are not manageable within the facility.  

7. Ongoing Compliance

Once licensed, ongoing compliance with regulatory standards is mandatory to maintain licensure. The VDSS may conduct regular inspections and audits to ensure ongoing adherence to licensing requirements.

  • Notification of Violations: When there are multiple violations of health and safety or human rights, the Department will inform the appropriate local governments and funding or placement agencies to lower the license status to temporary.
  • Self-reporting Needs: It is mandatory for licensees to self-report any litigation or settlements that pertain to health and safety or human rights concerns that affect residents. Additionally, they are required to disclose any criminal accusations that pertain to these matters.


How to come up with an all-encompassing service strategy?

Once you have evaluated the needs and engaged with stakeholders, create a comprehensive service plan that encompasses:

1. Daily Living Support 

Services include transportation, personal care assistance, maintenance, and meal preparation.

2. Coordination of Medical Care

There must be plans in place for emergency response, medication management, and routine medical examinations.

3. Therapeutic Services

There must be access to substance dependency treatment, mental health counseling, occupational therapy, or physical therapy as required.

4. Recreational and educational initiatives

Activities intended to foster social interaction, skill development, and overall well-being.

How do I find a suitable property for a group home?

You should know the group home residents' needs before starting your search. This includes the following:

1. Location-Related Considerations

There are numerous reasons why the group home's location is essential:

  • Closeness to Family and Friends: Staying close to family members can offer emotional support and encourage frequent visits.
  • Access to Services: Check to see if the property is close to important services like hospitals, clinics, food shops, public transportation, and places to play.
  • Security:  Select a neighborhood that is both secure and has low crime rates. If residents have mobility issues or are prone to wandering, it is also important that the area has low traffic.

2. Zoning and legal prerequisites

Group residences are subject to distinct regulations in various regions:

  • Zoning Regulations: Before operating as a group home, verify that the property complies with local zoning laws. In certain regions, there may be limitations on the number of unrelated individuals who are to reside together.
  • License Requirements: Acquire the necessary licenses from the appropriate local or state authorities. This frequently involves inspections and compliance with health and safety regulations.

What is the process for creating a comprehensive care plan?

When establishing a residential group home in Virginia, it is imperative to adhere to a series of meticulous procedures that guarantee the well-being of residents and ensure adherence to state regulations to create a comprehensive care plan. Therefore, you must:

1. Perform a need assessment

  • Identify the target population: Determine whether your group home will cater to seniors, individuals with disabilities, at-risk adolescents, or another specific demographic.
  • Conduct a local market analysis: Contact local government agencies, institutions, and social service organizations to evaluate the demand for group homes in your region.
  • Participation in the Community: Interact with community stakeholders to gain insight into their expectations and concerns.

How to come up with an all-encompassing service strategy?

Once you have evaluated the needs and engaged with stakeholders, create a comprehensive service plan that encompasses:

  • Daily Living Support: Services include transportation, personal care assistance, maintenance, and meal preparation.
  • Coordination of Medical Care: There must be plans in place for emergency response, medication management, and routine medical examinations.
  • Therapeutic Services: There must be access to substance dependency treatment, mental health counseling, occupational therapy, or physical therapy as required.
  • Recreational and educational initiatives: Activities intended to foster social interaction, skill development, and overall well-being.

How do I hire staff? 

When opening a residential group home in Virginia, take these specific measures to employ competent staff:

1. Define the responsibilities and qualifications of the position

Clearly define the roles you need to fill within your group home. Common positions consist of:

  • Direct care staff: These professionals are accountable for providing daily care to residents through direct care staff. A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required for these professionals, although a higher education in social work or psychology is beneficial. Experience dealing with children or vulnerable groups is often necessary.
  • Clinical Staff: These professionals comprise social workers, counselors, or therapists who provide mental health services. These professionals must possess appropriate professional licenses, such as those for Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) and Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC).
  • Administrative Staff: The administrative staff is responsible for the facility's operational aspects. They must possess regulatory compliance knowledge and management experience.

  • Support Staff: Cooks, cleaners, and maintenance personnel comprise the support staff.

2. Screening and interview process 

Establish a comprehensive screening process to guarantee that candidates possess all essential qualifications. Evaluate resumes, conduct interviews, and conduct thorough background checks according to the laws of Virginia before you hire someone.

3. What types of background investigations should you conduct?

Under §63.2-1726 of the Code of Virginia, anyone hired or approved to provide volunteer or contractual services must undergo a criminal history background check. The check also includes searching for convictions or pending charges related to specific offenses defined in Code §19.2-392.02. Make sure you are well aware of the background checks conducted and hire only the right people for your agency.


What are the special considerations for homes for children?

The purpose of residential group homes for children in Virginia is to offer a structured and supportive environment for children who are unable to reside with their families for a variety of reasons. These may include behavioral issues, mental health requirements, or other special circumstances. The following are the primary factors to take into account:

Accreditation and Compliance with Regulations

To guarantee the safety and welfare of the children, residential group homes are required to adhere to state and federal regulations. These facilities have to adhere to specific standards established by the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) and other pertinent entities in Virginia. The accreditation of Qualified Residential Treatment Programs (QRTPs) is necessary by recognized organizations, including:

  • The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations
  • The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities- The Council on Accreditation
  • The Educational Assessment Guidelines Leading toward Excellence (EAGLE) of the Teaching-Family Association

These accreditations guarantee that the facilities maintain rigorous standards of treatment and care.

Furthermore, state law mandates registration or accreditation for nursing and clinical personnel to provide care within their scope of practice in children's homes. Staff members must be available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to guarantee that the children receive uninterrupted assistance.

Our professional consultation services are of great assistance to you

Setting up a residential group home in Virginia requires navigating licensing hurdles. Our team offers expert consultations to help you through every step, ensuring your application complies with all regulations for a smooth licensure process.


The factors and steps explained above ensure that residential group homes offer a secure, nurturing, and efficient environment for children who require specialized care in a setting that is separate from their families. The goal of these homes is to help vulnerable individuals live a safe and happy life. 

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