Finding a PCA
I was absolutely crushed when our personal care attendant (PCA) of 2+ years informed me that she would no longer be able to work with my son. We FINALLY had things rolling along smoothly (might seem full of potholes to others, but to us life was moving along just fine). We FINALLY had a plan and a good routine. I found myself lying awake every night worrying about how we would ever replace our PCA. You see, Carrie had several years of experience working with children with behavioral concerns. Her own brother had special healthcare needs. And I knew her family. I trusted her. How could she ever be replaced?
After about 1 month of worry, sleepless nights, and general overall anxiety about the situation I came up with a plan. I started by thinking about what is most important to our family and came up with 1) trust, 2) character, and 3) experience. Next, I needed to figure out how to assess these attributes and find some candidates for the job.
I began by asking everyone I knew that had some understanding of Charlie’s special needs. I went directly to his elementary school and personally talked with the paraprofessionals and teachers to let them know what we were looking for. I also mentioned this open position to my network of moms of children with special healthcare needs, in case they had any leads. I was getting ready to post the job at some of the local community colleges and churches, hoping to get some interest from those entering or already in the helping profession.
Charlie has one special paraprofessional in his life who has been involved in his education since kindergarten. For the past three years, she has gotten to know so much about Charlie and how to best help him. Of course I went to her first, but her job at the school pays better so I wasn’t too optimistic. But this para reached out to me last week and told me about Jayni. She said Jayni was a friend of hers and she was looking for a job. Although she had never done this work before, she did have some experience with children.
I learned that Jayni had worked with Charlie at his school as a volunteer a couple years ago. I invited Jayni over to meet Charlie and to talk with her about the position. I asked her about her educational background, work experience, and her career aspirations. I cannot tell you the “correct” answers to those questions. But I can tell you that Jayni’s answers conveyed that she was trustworthy, of good character, and that she had experience working with children like Charlie. Jayni and Charlie are both superhero fans and they really hit it off!
I am so happy that Jayni will be training to become Charlie’s PCA and working with him this summer. What I feel is beyond a sense of relief, but I realize this is not the case for so many families who are struggling to find quality care for their child in their home.
What to do: Identify what is most important to your family and think of some ways you could ask a potential hire to share what his important to him/her. Interview candidates and trust your instincts. Take time to observe how the individual interacts with your child and make suggestions when needed. Spread the word. Tell everyone you can about the open position. You never know when the right person just might be looking for a rewarding position with a child such as yours!
Written By: Tricia Brisbine, CONNECTED Program Coordinator