Today’s post is from a journal entry that I wrote shared elsewhere several years ago…
Knowing that a new hire comes with a good referral eases my mind. That referral usually comes after I've asked friends, therapists, neighbors, coaches and my people in my church community if they know someone who's looking for work.
The job? Working with my son
Location? In our home
Why? Because he requires one-on-one support
When? Now until...
We haven't always been able to hire someone that a friend has recommended though. When that happens, if we don't find someone after reaching out as far as our rolodex of professionals and circle of friends go, I brainstorm ideas of where else I can look for qualified individuals who can meet Ronan's needs.
One place a lot of families will use to find in-home help is online. Since we have had more bad luck than praise reports using online classified ads, I knew that I wasn't going to go that route to find a new hire in my last search. Others have been successful using services that match sitters/nannies/special needs attendants with families. But I really wanted to go the old fashion route – by word of mouth.
We lost a worker a few months ago. I have been actively trying to fill the position since then. After asking everyone we knew for some leads, I was not able to find anyone through word of mouth efforts. I knew that I was going to have to look beyond my comfort zone to find our next provider.
While looking through some ads placed by other parents in similar positions, I read that people were having some luck working with their local community colleges and universities. I looked into that and discovered that some schools will offer to place their education, nursing or psychology department students in both paid and unpaid internships with families like mine. We had not utilized an intern yet, but I would be open to that if we found the right match. I thought that could be a really good idea, especially if it was someone who could learn and earn hands-on experience with my family.
Recently, a friend shared that she was looking for in-home help for her son as well. Our boys are similar in that they are both non-verbal and require one-on-one assistance and supervision. We were both going to have to hire complete strangers because she, too, could not find anyone within her circle of friends to help.
Talking about finding someone trustworthy who possesses the skills that our children require was a little nerve wracking for both of us. I wrote those skills down after we chatted because I wanted to remember them when I sat down to write a job description. After exhausting every avenue I went down to finding a new caregiver, my next step to find a new hire was to post the job description in town. In case anyone else could use the information, I thought I'd share the job description here. Feel free to cut/past, add/delete, and make the wording unique to your family's specific needs.
Job Description: Part-time in-home respite care for a child with special needs
Job Requirements: Candidate must be at least 18 years old, have a high school degree or equivalent, have a valid driver's license, have a clean record (background check required), provide professional references, and provide their own transportation.
Must also have excellent communication skills, be willing to learn, be able to adapt according to client’s/family’s needs as well as be able to perform the following daily and throughout shift:
-Arrive on time and be ready to work
-Observe and train with parents to learn client’s specific needs
-Hold special needs care experience and/or special education training
-Assist with feeding and toileting needs
-Bathe, groom, dress, and attend to client’s personal hygiene
-Prepare client’s meals as directed
-Assist, monitor or prompt client with encouragement and respect
-Redirect, monitor and observe noted care plans and changes to care plan as specified by parents
-Redirect client with positive reinforcement to reduce potential negative behavior(s)
-Monitor activity level, behavior outcomes, and seizure activity at all times
-Be flexible with family’s schedule as well as with client’s needs
-Maintain client and family’s privacy
-Knowledge of basic sign language beneficial but not required
During the interview process, the candidate and I will go over each of those points above. I'll also add a few things that have come up with past employees. Some of our past caregivers have been amazing, so I’ll share what made them desirable employees with new prospects. I’ll also share things other employees, who were not so stellar, did that got them fired from the job. Before the interview ends, I’ll explain to the candidates that wearing perfume or cologne can cause an increase in Ronan's sensory issues; that Ronan's providers cannot be distracted by their cell phones, that taking pictures and video of Ronan is not permitted; that that our family conversations are to be considered private and information about us is not to be shared with others at any time, including on social media; that if we're sick we'll give them as much notice as possible, and that we expect the same notice in return.
Some of those items sound simple enough and may not need to be mentioned. But I'd rather be upfront early with expectations than find us in an uncomfortable situation like we have had in the past when a provider had to be let go because of unprofessional behavior.
We have been blessed with some wonderful helpers in the past. Because of their hospitality toward not just Ronan but to our entire family, they remind me constantly that there are good people in the world.
I'm happy to share that after months and months of searching, we'll be welcoming a good person into our home again. Paperwork is being completed, and a start date is just around the corner. I wish the same happens soon for my friend and for other families who may still be searching for the right person for their children. We need good people working with Ronan and with other kids like my friend's son, too.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.
If you have any hiring tips/suggestions that have helped you find just the right person, please share what’s worked for your family in the comments below.