LGBT Certification Helps Goodwin House Live Out Its Values

By Christopher Jones

GOODWIN HOUSE employees reflect on what they learned from their LGBT-focused training on cultural competency. (Photo: Courtesy Goodwin House)

Goodwin House, a prominent Falls Church and Alexandria senior living community and health services provider became the first such organization from the Northern Virginia area to achieve a Gold Level Provider rating from Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE) in July for their intensive staff and executive LGBT cultural competency training — a major progressive milestone. 

As a non-profit senior living community that provides certain health care services, Goodwin House Incorporated (GHI), which serves 1,150 seniors and employs 950 staff, merited its Gold Level rating after its senior executives and administrators completed 4 hours of LGBT-focused training from SAGECare (the training and support team from SAGE) and over 60 percent of its employees trained for at least one hour. According to GHI, their online and in-class LGBT related training will be incorporated into “new employee orientation.” By 2021, GHI “hopes to attain SAGECare Platinum status with at least 80 percent of employees undergoing SAGECare training.” 

At Goodwin House in Bailey’s Crossroads, the decision to provide LGBT cultural competency training to all staff was about values, much more than business. 

“If we take our mission which is to ‘support, honor, and uplift the lives of older adults and the people who care for them,’ and combine that with our value statements on community and individuality, then becoming involved in SAGECare seems like a no-brainer,” said Fran Casey, chief people officer at GHI. “It was absolutely in alignment with the way we conduct ourselves every day, what we hope to achieve, and how we hope to be recognized by those who visit our community.” 

How has the Goodwin House community responded to the LGBT-focused training? 

“We are extremely proud of this accomplishment, and by “we,” I mean the staff as well as all of our residents. We’ve received such favorable comments. People were so pleased that we were pursuing it,” said Casey. 

Has there been any negative pushback? “I have not heard one negative comment,” Casey affirmed. “And, most certainly not from the staff nor the residents… We published it in the resident newsletter and we’ve talked all about it. Our residents are really proud that we’re embracing our values and that they’re not just on a plaque on the wall, and we’re living them every day.”

Casey credits LGBT residents, staff counselors, and one political affinity group at the Falls Church Bailey’s Goodwin House residence — the Silver Panthers — with helping spur GHI into action on LGBT awareness. 

“Residents who were aware of what SAGE was and the significance of it were, I think, pleased by the pursuit of the certification and glad about it,” said resident Carol Lewis. “For those who haven’t been involved” in LGBTQ advocacy work, she said, the training provided “new and good information.” 

“We refuse to be invisible,” proclaims the SAGECare website. And in the northern Virginia senior care community, their impact now shines.

Founded in New York City in 1978, SAGE offers support services and consumer resources to LGBT older people and caregivers. In 2010, the organization established SAGECare to train, support, and credential senior care communities. “We are part of the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults,” SAGECare announced on its website, “…the LGBT community needs providers who understand, acknowledge and celebrate their whole selves, and showing a SAGECare symbol helps you convey that you are welcoming, inclusive, and prepared to work with a diverse population of LGBT clients, family, and friends…” 

Achieving such credentials makes business sense as well, according to SAGECare executive director Hilary Meyer. 

“When your staff and agency become LGBT competent, you can communicate with your clients, residents and their families with even more compassion and faith” (