In response: Foster home staff members need better training, pay
I answer yes to the question on Sunday's front page, which asked whether danger lurks behind the doors of adult foster homes. I worked in the field for three years. My first experience was in a high-behaviors home for men. I worked several shifts...
I answer yes to the question on Sunday's front page, which asked whether danger lurks behind the doors of adult foster homes.
I worked in the field for three years. My first experience was in a high-behaviors home for men. I worked several shifts before being required to complete testing to care for the clients there. I was in a position where I had to manually restrain a client before having the proper training to do so.
Rarely did I ever have a true half-hour break while working mentally exhausting, 12-hour shifts.
On several occasions I had to decide whether I or my female co-worker should take three clients out for evening activities or stay back with a fourth client, who was "on restriction," deemed too unstable to be in the community.
A number of clients under my care either had a history of or were deemed capable of cooperating with others to abuse fellow clients.
I saw more than one staff member freeze in the face of violence. The chances seemed very real, every day, that we'd be attacked or have a partner attacked.
There are a lot of good staff members in these homes, but the span of control of these good staff members is stretched too far.
Staff members where I worked were trained to call for help first within the company during a crisis rather than first dialing 911. That was very dangerous, in my mind. During an incident in which a client is physically acting out, a staff member might be able to get one call made, if that. If your crisis help is miles away, traveling at or near legal speed limits, lots of bad stuff can happen. If staff members who fear for their safety could just call 911 immediately, help could arrive much more quickly.
I live less than one block from an adult foster home. If a resident from that facility found his or her way into my yard I would call 911 immediately. Others should, too, if living in a similar situation. Neighbors don't know the backgrounds of clients and of what they might be capable.
My advice is to know your neighbors. If you do live near an adult foster home, hope the staff there is really good.
I've been spit on, punched, scratched and threatened numerous times, but I don't think that big institutions are the answer. Better training and higher pay would be my solution. Getting paid $8 to $10.50 an hour for this type of work makes for lazy staff members.
And that's another ingredient in the recipe for bad stuff to happen.
KIRK BATES lives in Duluth.