by Adria Nassim
For several years now, I have recruited and brought my own direct care providers to the disability services organization I use for supports. The advantage to this is that I have more control over who provides supports to me.
The direct care industry is currently strapped and struggling to find enough providers to serve each client. This issue has existed for a long time, largely because of the low pay seen in the industry coupled with often demanding physical work and long hours, which leads to high staff turnover rates.
Playing a direct role in my own care.
When it came time for me to enter adult services, I started developing a mental list of qualities and characteristics I would want in a direct care provider. Many times, they are a little above what the organization could offer, so I set about getting to know people in my community and developing relationships with them. If I really like them and they are looking for work, I will take them to coffee or lunch and talk to them about working 1:1 with me.
Here are some of the characteristics I look for in providers:
- Good time-management skills
- Good executive functioning skills (well organized, completes tasks on time)
- Good problem-solving skills (service providers should be able to assist with day-to-day problem solving and coaching as needed related to social skills and independent living)
- Similar interests
- Understands the importance of education, cultural appreciation, and has a broad worldview
- Fun-loving, patient, compassionate personality
- Major or degree focuses on an area relating to serving children, teens, or young adults with autism and developmental disability
- Background knowledge or prior experience with autism or developmental disability
I choose. They train. We all win.
I started recruiting my own providers after I saw the types of people typically working in the direct care industry. I noticed that many times, because of the low pay seen in the industry, the positions would attract people with low education. Throughout my life, I have spent most of my time around people with higher education and also expected the same of myself, so I wanted people who were very driven and high achievers with a strong sense of direction and professionalism.
After I find a good match, I then refer them for hiring and training to a local disability services provider. They go through training with the company to ensure they are in compliance with state standards and with the organization’s policies. Then, they meet with me to learn what their role is and what I expect of them.
Recruiting and hiring my own staff is a win for me, it’s a win for the organization, and it’s a win for my direct support professional staff. It also eases the stress on my parents a bit, because they don’t need to participate as much in finding the right caregivers.
Certain disability service providers have programs allowing individuals to bring in their own providers. Recruiting and referring staff can be empowering. Autonomy – in many things, including choice of staff – is important for individuals with disabilities. Realizing they have the power to make choices and be autonomous shouldn’t come as a surprise to them.