Family Care Provider opens her home to recovering women

Pearl Hadley, center, a family care provider with SERV Centers of New Jersey-Hudson County, is flanked by two of the three SERV consumers who live in her home in Jersey City – Elsie, left, and Rosa.

“Eighteen years have come and gone since mama passed away …But, now I’m with Ms. Hadley. What a wonderful lady – no more rags, (I have) nice suits, dresses and pants. I get to travel and have cookouts and go to church with her. She cooks, I clean, but get compensated for it. No more depression or laziness.”

— Excerpt from “The Hadley Residence,” a composition from “Reflections” by Elsie W., a consumer with SERV Centers Hudson County

In her tidy home on a one-way street in Jersey City, Pearl Hadley provides the kind of nurturing home that makes it simple to see why one of the three SERV consumers for whom Miss Hadley cares summons up a motherly image of her in her “Reflections” booklet about recovery.

Miss Hadley, as she is called by the women who live in her home, is a family care provider in SERV Centers-Hudson County’s Therapeutic Foster Care program, a role she feels blessed to have found since she retired from her job as an assistant treasurer in a bank in Jersey City. As a family care provider for SERV, Miss Hadley is required to not only provide training, personal guidance, food and shelter to the women in her care, but also comfort, warmth and acceptance.

That she embraces the residents into her own family by including them in her personal vacations and family gatherings is a bonus that is appreciated by Elsie, Rosa and Dinorah, all of whom are near the age of 60.

“They are so very blessed to be with her,” says Renita Farkas, Nursing Services Coordinator for SERV-Hudson County.   “Miss Hadley made them more aware and responsible for their hygiene and grooming and nutrition and all aspects of wellness and recovery,” says Ms. Farkas. “She taught them proper etiquette, table manners, and the proper way to dress.” Miss Hadley also has instructed the women about proper nutrition and how to maintain a low-calorie, low-fat, low-salt and more-fiber food plan.

According to Ms. Farkas, who performs 90-day reassessment visits to the home, these residents with mental illness in the TFC program function at a higher level. They are able to travel independently using public transportation, shop for food, cook, and are knowledgeable about their medications.

Miss Hadley, a divorced mother of two grown children, has been a family care provider for SERV since April 2005. After learning of the program through another SERV provider, she filled out an application and then interviewed in her home with SERV Centers Hudson County Director Patty Duerr. Miss Hadley was approved as a family care provider after she passed the background check, her home met all safety requirements by SERV, and she attended first aid and other training by SERV staff.

To determine whether a provider and a consumer are a match, SERV first coordinates a dinner visit with the consumer in the provider’s home, and if they seem compatible, then an overnight stay is arranged. When all parties are in agreement to the match-up, then the consumer can move in to the home. Providers are compensated for their services by SERV and they receive a service fee from the consumer, as well.

Elsie was the first resident to become a part of Miss Hadley’s home in April 2005. After some time, Miss Hadley thought Elsie seemed lonely so she called SERV to ask for another resident who might be a good match with Elsie. In April 2006, Rosa joined the “family.”   Unbeknownst to staff who arranged it, the women happened to know each other from the ‘70s and were thrilled to meet again. Both women have similar challenges – undifferentiated schizophrenia with mild mental retardation.   Another resident, Dinorah, joined the group in August 2008.

How Miss Hadley made the transition from her job at the bank to one of caregiver was through divine instruction, she says. “God gave me what I needed (to do it). I treat them like family … and my family treats them the same way.” Miss Hadley routinely takes the residents on trips to the Jersey shore and to family gatherings in Connecticut and North and South Carolina. “I want them to experience things,” she says.

The trips wouldn’t be possible if Miss Hadley hadn’t first shown the women how to budget their money. Together they determine the cost of transportation and hotel stays and how much a month they need to save in the bank to make it happen.

Miss Hadley says the structure, scheduling and organizational skills she learned while working in the bank are what prepared her for this part of her provider role. She maintains records and a doctor’s appointment log book on each of the women, though the residents themselves schedule and keep their appointments independently in most cases.

On her own, Miss Hadley also holds monthly meetings with the women to discuss their goals and records them in a book. She has the residents “sign-off” on their new goal, such as organizing a closet, not eating in the bedrooms, washing hands before eating, and more. She will refer back to the book for the “promise” if a goal has not been accomplished, and they discuss ways to bring it to fruition. “I tell them, if you have anything that is bothering you, come to me. You are not bothering me,” says Miss Hadley.

Miss Hadley’s friend of 40 years, Carolyn, fills in the gaps as a trainee when Miss Hadley leaves the house for her part-time clerical job four days a week at Ministries Alliance in Jersey City. Carolyn, who cooks dinner for the household, lives on the second floor and the three residents occupy their own bedrooms on the first floor. Miss Hadley lives in a finished apartment in the house.

All of the women have a very good relationship with one another, says Miss Hadley. There are some challenges and misunderstandings at times, she says, but “they know there are boundaries. I respect them and they respect me.”

“When I came to Miss Hadley’s home, I found relief,” says Rosa. “Miss Hadley helps me with budgeting my money and teaches me how to stretch it.” Currently she is saving the money she earns from her part-time production work three days a week at the occupational center of Hudson Community Enterprise to buy partial dentures. “Miss Hadley is a great provider – the best I ever heard of. She takes us to family reunions … birthday parties and to her godchild’s pajama party. This is like my own family. I don’t feel strange (here).”

With the help of Miss Hadley, Rosa has made a significant change in her health by reducing the number of cigarettes she smokes, which she does outside the house. Rosa explained that she started smoking in her 40s, when she was a patient at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital. Twenty years later, after taking a pledge in the smoking-cessation workshop at last year’s SERV Recovery NJ Conference, Rosa agreed to let Miss Hadley monitor her cigarette intake. She has decreased from one pack a day to five cigarettes a day. Her cough has lessened and her lung infection has cleared. Rose thinks she will some day totally quit.  

Elsie also has made some significant strides since she came to SERV. Previously she had lived in a boarding house where “everything was sickness, sickness, sickness,” she says. “I dressed in raggedy clothes, taking care of sick folks.” A friend at a self-help center told her about SERV. “She said, ‘You can live decent in a house in a community that doesn’t have a name on the door.”

Elsie first lived in a SERV group home in Hudson County before moving to Miss Hadley’s home. There, she learned from Miss Hadley how to control her negative speech about her illnesses. “Miss Hadley said, ‘You’re going to learn to experience something besides sickness.” Now, after some practice, Elsie prefers to talk to her housemates and friends about the things that bring her joy: Her primitive artwork, needlepoint, gospel music and writing.

Her latest writing project is called “Reflections,” a booklet with hand-drawn illustrations about events in her lifetime: her first trip to the beach, fishing, church, the election of Barack Obama as the first African American president, and of course, “The Hadley Residence.” On her own, she copyrighted the book with the Library of Congress with the hope of selling it to church members.

She is encouraged by the response she has received for her ink and watercolor, “He Lives,’’ a depiction of Jesus. She says representatives of the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, where she attends a support group meeting once a month, are interested in having three of her paintings displayed in public buildings in Jersey City.

Elsie is looking forward to expressing her creative talents at SERV’s 8th Annual Recovery NJ Conference in April, where she plans to attend the “Hobbies” workshop. All of SERV’s consumers and their families are invited to the daylong conference free of charge.

Miss Hadley, Elsie and Rosa share a bond not only in their home but in their church, as well. Every Sunday, the three attend Bible study, followed by morning worship at New Hope Baptist Church in Jersey City. Miss Hadley also holds the positions of trustee and church nurse. A traditional role in the church, the nurse does not administer medicines but assists members if they are feeling ill.

Attending church services and having a loving home have been positive influences in the women’s recovery, says Miss Hadley. “I can see how the ladies are growing spiritually. They are more confident. They know someone cares about them and is concerned about their wellbeing.”

When asked how long she plans to be a family care provider with SERV, she answers, “This is a commitment for me and a blessing to me. It doesn’t seem like a job, it’s just something that I do. I will do it as long as I am able.”


SERV has Therapeutic Foster Care programs for adult consumers in Mercer, Hudson and Passaic counties. To find out more information about becoming a family care provider, call SERV Behavioral Health System, Inc. at (609) 406-0100.