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I am not cut out for this “managing employer” role.

We’ve utilized a number of agencies as providers for my son’s Habilitation Aide services and were encouraged to try the Person Directed Services method again, having tried it once before. This method requires me to act as “managing employer” of my son’s services, his “staff”.

I get a guide, from the Agency we’ve chosen to handle his services fiscal matters, for how to be a managing employer. It tells me what my responsibilities are and that I’m responsible to answer to the agency, as my staff are technically hired by them and represent them in the community.

I’ve had a really hard time, gone through a lot of trial and error.

The staff we’ve hired really didn’t get much in the way of training. All I was able to do was to instruct them on my son’s diagnosis, go over his Individualized Service Plan (ISP) with them, provide explicit details about the goals he’s to be working on and what has worked in the past. I’ve explained to our staff what didn’t work, suggesting they try to avoid those pitfalls. My son has become quite good at helping new staff get accustomed to his routine.

Each time we encounter similar problems. We’ve only had one staff person out of 10 that has been able to adequately follow directions and abide by regulations that guide these services.

I’ve tried a number of methods for handling conflict, lack of communication, not following directions, etc.

I’ve tried practicing tolerance, allowing extended periods of time for individuals to correct mistakes, behaviors, etc., but by doing so I found that the more I tolerated, the more issues there seemed to be and my frustration mounted until when I finally had to speak to the individual my tone was less than understanding. This method didn’t work for my son, because as things happened, as mistakes were made, his level of trust diminished until he didn’t want to continue with the individual.

I’ve tried being more direct, being quick to give reminders, discuss mistakes, offer suggestions. I’ve found that this method got immediate results in that the individual simply quit, walked away from the position.

I’ve found myself in situations where I just didn’t know what to do. One particular situation comes to mind, as one individual had constant issues with babysitters. She was a good person, tried really hard, my son got along well with her, but she was either late or didn’t show up more often than she worked with him. I sought counsel from the individual I answer to and they terminated the individual. I had been too emotional, too empathetic, wanting to give her chance after chance, hoping things would improve, but once again, my son shut down and he felt he couldn’t trust her.

Our current Hab Aide is someone I dearly love, a friend. Friends haven’t worked out in the past, but those folks weren’t like this individual. She sincerely seems to enjoy being with my son and wants to be of help. She’s not interested in the money or how many hours she can get, it’s more than a “job” to her.

She recently hurt herself, did some sort of injury to her foot. She’s been hobbling around, obviously in pain and had to cancel a day of work because it was so bad she had gone to the ER to find out what was going on with her foot. They had prescribed an air cast and elevation, as well as an anti-inflammatory, a pain killer and an anti-biotic.

The first day of work with my son after her injury involved her sitting and observing, offering support, while he was volunteering. When she came home from that outing she said her foot was pounding, she could tell it was swollen, as she was unable to prop it up while she was sitting for 3 hours.

I suggested that the following day, instead of walking around the Mall and shopping, perhaps they should just go to lunch, as they had arranged for someone to join them. That way they could take their time at lunch, enjoy their visit, she would be off her foot and perhaps with another week of taking care of herself she would be up to their Hab day this week.

She argued with me, telling me she wanted to do all the Hab hours for the day. I explained to her that if something happened to her (she’d suggested that the Dr. talked about possibly lancing whatever was on her foot, opening it and draining it), if she fell, if she were unable to walk, her boyfriend was working, my husband was working, I don’t have a car, so no one could come and get them. I explained that my son had experienced such a situation once before, when his Summer teacher fell and broke her ankle on the playground during extended school year (ESY) program, in July. She and my son were the only ones (aside from janitors) in the school. They sat on the hot pavement for hours waiting for me to come pick him up because his anxiety prevented him from going inside to ask for help.

I told her I didn’t want to risk putting him or her in such a situation and felt more comfortable with them just doing lunch. I told her I had considered cancelling her hours that day so she could have another week to take care of it and see if she felt better next week, but remembered they had made a date with another person for lunch. She got agitated. She said she had to let the other person know what they were doing so what should she tell them. I told her I didn’t say I decided to cancel, only that I had considered it.

She literally pouted and kept arguing. I had to use the bathroom, but I could hear the conversation clearly that took place while I was out of the room. She was asking my son if he was going to side with her or me. He said he was in agreement with me, that I’m Mom and I’m in charge. She tried to change his mind. More than once she asked him to take her side, that she couldn’t believe he’d side with me. He was strong, knew what to say, made the right decision. I was very proud of him.

After she left I told him I was sorry he was put in that position, but I was proud of him for how he reacted. He hugged me.

About 15 minutes had passed when the phone rang. It was our Aide. She said “Karma sucks.” I asked her what she was talking about. She said her regular job had called and asked her if she could take some hours the next day, but that she had told them it was her day with my son so she wouldn’t do the hours. I asked her when they wanted her, if she could get back from lunch in time, she should take the hours. She said she didn’t even know when they wanted her and that she just didn’t understand why she couldn’t do all her hours with my son.

I told her I was sorry, but my priority had to be that my son would be safe and not be put in a compromising position.

There have already been some issues since our friend started in this position. I gave her the ISP and went over it with her, but she told me she wouldn’t read it, wanting to get to know my son for herself, even though the ISP is written with specifics about what to do and not to do, his likes and dislikes. It’s meant to be a ‘snapshot’ of my son, so that he doesn’t have to endure each staff person starting cold, clumsily making mistakes about basic things regarding his needs and disability. I addressed this with her more than once.

She has to complete a monthly report to submit to the funding provider for the services. It has to represent what they are doing, each day they are together, how what they are doing pertains to his goals and desired outcomes. I explained it to her, sat with her the first couple of times she completed it, but she insists on including minute details that are irrelevant to what’s required.

She interfered with the arranging of his volunteer experience, telling the people at the Volunteer Dept of the local health system things contrary to what I had told them in setting things up, which caused a lot of misunderstandings, caused the health system to contact the person I answer to at the provider agency.

She’s been making lunch arrangements with a relative of hers. The rules that govern her position through the provider agency state clearly that she cannot include family or relatives when she’s out with my son. Her time is to be devoted to him. This person is someone my son once knew in a Summer program, so I’m not certain how to handle the situation. This last lunch date she actually took him and went to pick this other individual up to take to lunch, which is very much against the rules.

Each time I have tried to be direct and gently offer correction and reminders the response I get is pouting. She says she’s getting in trouble and pouts.

I just don’t think friends understand that this is not a ‘friendly’ arrangement, it’s a paid position. She’s being paid $15 an hour to work on his independent living skills and social skills in the community. We have to show progress to maintain the funding that allows him to have this support.

I’ve tried stressing to all the people we’ve worked with that if they aren’t doing what they are supposed to be doing they could jeopardize his funding. I need them to take this work seriously.

I don’t think I’m cut out to be a managing employer. Every method of ‘managing’ I’ve tried has caused more stress for my son, myself and our family. If I’m too hard they run, if I’m too soft they take advantage, this time I tried something in the middle but I’m just not being taken seriously.

Any ideas about a more effective managing style would be greatly appreciated.