The 3 Traits Of A Successful Life Sharing Host Family

As human beings, we need connections — the bond of family and friends, the loyalty of a pet, the guidance of a mentor. We crave community, even the most introverted of us. For individuals with intellectual disabilities, that desire to be needed, loved, and embraced exists just the same.

Which is where Life Sharing comes in.

Life Sharing is a residential program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, where they live in the community with a host family that has been licensed and vetted. These individuals and their host families receive support from health care providers and coordinators, so they can have the best experience possible. Life Sharing offers a unique opportunity to share responsibilities, successes, and challenges that occur in the course of normal day-to-day family life.

Host families are at the core of this program, and provide a supportive environment for individuals with disabilities. Families — no matter how many people are involved — can provide influential experiences and relationships that allow individuals with disabilities to blossom.

While challenges will happen, especially as the family and individual transition, there are some key traits that help provide a successful and rewarding experience for everyone.

#1: Patience

Patience truly is a virtue, and it’s one of the most important traits for Life Sharing host families. The ability to take a step back, take a deep breath, and keep moving cannot be overlooked. If things get challenging, you need to be able to stay calm and accept that not everything goes according to plan.

Patience can come in many different forms — it can be in a calm demeanor, a firm stance, a compassionate hug, or even an ear to listen. This trait keeps us from “losing our cool,” even when others are being rude or judgmental.

#2: Adaptability

Along with patience, you’ll need to be adaptable. When things go wrong, you need to be able to think on your feet. Even when things go right, you’ll still rely on this trait to accept new ideas, embrace new skills, and overcome fears.

What if things don’t work out? What if we aren’t the right family? What if they don’t like us? These “What if” questions can keep you from changing someone’s life for the better. They can keep you from showing and receiving unconditional love from someone who needs and craves that community and family. When the challenges happen, being adaptable enables you to realize that the bad doesn’t outweigh the good.

#3: An Open Heart

It can be scary to open your home and your heart to someone you don’t know. However, when you open your heart for a Life Sharing program, you’ll receive wonderful rewards: love, kindness, and happiness. Even when there are challenges with transitions or habits, the big picture is beautiful. It’s a narrative of supporting someone who might not have support elsewhere, embracing who they are and who they’ll become, and nurturing the new relationship that will change you forever. An open heart, ready to give and receive, can make all the difference.

For more information on Life Sharing through Raystown Developmental Services and The ReDCo Group, and to inquire about becoming a host family, contact Pathways of Pennsylvania.


Pathways is one of the largest national providers of accessible, outcome-based behavioral and mental health services. Pathways of Pennsylvania has been serving communities in Pennsylvania since 1981, and is comprised of four companies: Children’s Behavioral Health, Inc., Pathways Community Services, LLC, Raystown Developmental Services, Inc., and The ReDCo Group, Inc. We believe every individual has a right to lead a meaningful and positive life, and we are changing lives, one day at a time.