Stepping into the world of Social Work

What’s a job coach?

I start a job as a Job Coach tomorrow. This is a job I held for another employer for more than 5 years, so I don’t expect too many surprises. I won’t identify my new employer (or my former employers)  for the privacy of my clients, and will be very careful about what I say about work in the future.

Since it isn’t a job everyone knows about, I figured I’d post a bit about the job itself. Job coaching is a direct support position serving adults with disabilities, most often developmental disabilities, but sometimes others (I’ve coached visually impaired adults with no other disability, and have also seen my share of those with mental health diagnoses). The primary purpose of the job is to keep the client working at his or her highest,most independent level.

The typical work of a job coach involves visiting a roster of clients/participants/consumers at their work sites, checking in about how they’re doing with everyone concerned (particularly the manager and/or designated co-workers) and observing the client working for a while and making suggestions that come up.

Here in California, the Department of Rehabilitation funds the first part of the client’s job coaching (the first few months) and the regional center for developmental disabilities takes over after that. Typically, coaching is provided to the client for 100% of their working hours the first month, then decreasing the next few months until the client is considered “stable.” So the coach could be spending as little as one hour at a site, to as much as the whole shift of 8 hours. The idea, at least in my opinion, is to supplement the employer’s training and supervision to ensure the client’s success.

Typically those who are served in such a fashion are higher functioning individuals who do not need close supervision, so the coach isn’t obligated to be right at the person’s elbow the entire time, can take breaks and lunch away from the client, etc. I’ve had a few who needed a lot of help their first few days (to the point where I didn’t even feel I could slip away to use the ladies room!) but those are the exceptions rather than the rule.

The most common positions found for developmentally disabled adults are in retail and food service. I’ve had many many clients who were cart attendants and courtesy clerks, held janitorial positions, and did light office work.

There can be a lot of driving, a lot of sitting and observing (particularly at the stage where the client is doing very well) and the opportunity to meet a lot of different people and see a lot of different jobs.

More tomorrow….

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