In a Nutshell
What: With a flexible loan from IFF, Murphy Mentoring Group is opening The Respite House of Marion County, which will offer parents and caregivers of children with severe emotional disabilities between ages six to 13 with a safe place where their children can spend time with certified professionals while they take short breaks to rest, refuel, and take care of daily obligations that are difficult to accomplish while providing intensive supervision and care for their children. The respite house will be just the second serving the Indianapolis area, helping to meet an overwhelming demand for such a resource.
Sector: Youth Services
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Size: 3,762 square feet
Sources of Funding/Financing: IFF, agency equity
IFF Support: $480,000 loan closed in September 2022 for the acquisition of a single-family home and subsequent renovations to convert the property into a respite house
IFF Staff Lead: Andre Gibson, Director of Lending – Indiana and Kentucky
General Contractor: The Heartland Builders
Impact: 40 families provided with respite house service annually; creation of two part-time jobs; expanded organizational capacity
“There are so many things that most people take for granted, like having the time to make a trip to the grocery store or to go to a doctor’s appointment,” says Jennifer Murphy, the CEO of Murphy Mentoring Group (MMG), a youth services nonprofit based in Indianapolis. “But when you’re the parent of a child with a severe emotional disability who doesn’t do well in certain environments and who can’t go with you, taking care of those day-to-day needs becomes a major challenge. And when you can’t engage in even the most basic self-care, it becomes overwhelming. Parents and caregivers are human, and the rates of child abuse and neglect are higher when there are no opportunities for breaks.”
With the help of a $480,000 loan from IFF, MMG is on the verge of offering parents and caregivers facing this situation a new resource to lean on for support. Next month, MMG will open The Respite House of Marion County, which will serve as a temporary home away from home for children ages six through 13 with severe emotional disabilities – giving their caregivers an opportunity to rest, refuel, and take care of daily obligations without worrying about the well-being of their children.
Based on research conducted by Indiana University’s Center for Health Policy, there are more than 12,000 children in Marion County diagnosed with a severe emotional disability – with only one existing respite house in the area currently serving families. By opening a second respite house in the region, MMG will serve up to 40 families per year who haven’t previously been able to access services, almost all of whom will qualify for Medicaid benefits.
And, while the respite house will provide a vital resource for parents and caregivers, it will be equally impactful for the young people who visit. Staffed by certified professionals, the respite house will offer support with daily living skills, meal preparation and clean-up, personal hygiene and grooming, peer interactions, recreation, and more. MMG’s goal is for the young people to build skills and knowledge that they can take home with them, which is in keeping with the organization’s broader mission to help children, adolescents, and their families reach their greatest potential.
Since 2009, when MMG was co-founded by Jennifer and her husband, Dedrick Murphy, who serves as the organization’s director of operations, the nonprofit has positively impacted the lives of more than 1,500 clients through mentoring and life coaching, motivational speaking, character- and self-esteem building workshops, parenting classes, and other related services.
Having a place where parents know their child can spend extended time with skilled professionals who have experience working with other children with emotional disabilities, and where they’re going to be loved and cared for, is very important to us.
Unlike a community-based respite care program already offered by MMG, which operates only during the day, The Respite House of Marion County will provide families with additional flexibility by offering round-the-clock care, six days per week. Children will be able to stay at the respite house for up to 14 days before taking a 30-day break.
“Having a place where parents know their child can spend extended time with skilled professionals who have experience working with other children with emotional disabilities, and where they’re going to be loved and cared for, is very important to us,” says Murphy. “By stepping into this new space and opening the respite house, there are going to be families who are able to take short vacations for the first time in years, along with other opportunities to do things that they haven’t had before.”
Many of the children who will spend time at the respite house have had experiences in institutional settings, so MMG prioritized finding a location and a home that felt calm and inviting. Focusing on the east side of Indianapolis because of particularly high demand for respite house services in the area, the Murphys began their search during the height of the pandemic when the housing market was moving fast. After an extensive search, they found a single-family home that offered the perfect foundation upon which to create the respite house and immediately put in an offer to purchase the house.
Having approached several banks for the financing necessary for the respite house, without success, a flexible loan from IFF ultimately provided the capital needed for MMG to make the offer, while hands-on support from IFF Director of Lending for Indiana and Kentucky Andre Gibson helped finalize the transaction after the seller expressed reservations about the time needed to close the sale.
“All of the banks we talked to wanted us to utilize personal assets as collateral, which we were not interested in doing,” says Murphy. “The Central Indiana Community Foundation suggested to us that IFF could be helpful in bringing our project to fruition, so we got in touch with IFF’s team in Indiana. From the very beginning, everyone we talked to at IFF was super supportive and excited about the project. They immediately understood what we were hoping to accomplish and really put their hearts on the line to help us make it happen. And that’s why we can’t fail, because we know what it took to get us to this point.”
From the very beginning, everyone we talked to at IFF was super supportive and excited about the project. They immediately understood what we were hoping to accomplish and really put their hearts on the line to help us make it happen.
With four bedrooms and three bathrooms, the 3,762-square-foot house sits on a half-acre lot at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac that’s tucked into a neighborhood with ample greenspace. In addition to providing young people with plenty of room for outdoor activities, the lot will also be home to a community garden. Inside, the split-level house had been updated recently and contains relatively new mechanical systems, requiring only minor renovations and cosmetic upgrades to convert the home into a quality space optimized for use as a respite house.
MMG is currently making those changes, which include installing a perimeter fence, converting the two-car garage to an intake office, replacing original windows, repainting, and creating specialized spaces like a rec room, a library, and gaming station, among others. Each of the spaces will support a program model designed to provide structure and learning opportunities while leaving plenty of room for fun.
“Our kids respond well to structure and a schedule, so each day will be planned out similarly to how a child care center operates,” explains Murphy. “But we also want it to be a fun environment that the kids look forward to visiting. If a parent brings their child to the respite house, we don’t want our kids to feel like they’re being left out. They’ll be learning life and social skills with us, but they’re going to have fun while they’re with us. The goal is to establish a replicable model that we can take to other locations to meet the overwhelming need for this type of service.”