Stepping into the world of Social Work
Here is something I wrote some time back as a joke among co-workers.
You know you’re a job coach if:
1. You’ve attended the new-employee orientation for a company multiple times but never received a paycheck from them
2. You refer to particular stores as “Mark’s Target” or “Anita’s Ralphs.”
3. If doing business at a store where you have clients, you make sure you’re not buying anything “sensitive” – feminine hygiene, underclothing, alcohol (or you go out of your way to visit a different store where you don’t have clients)
4. You have to resist the urge to “coach” your courtesy clerk when shopping for your own groceries (you’ve been a job coach too long if you DON’T resist)
5. You can state distances between various local retail centers/malls from memory
6. You know lunch/coffee options on any given route off hand
7. You visit a restaurant and note how nicely the silverware is rolled
8. You know how to do paperwork in some interesting positions – leaning against walls, check stands, etc.
9. You see an advertisement on television and immediately think of how the promotion will affect your clients
10. You have a Bachelors Degree and years of experience but make less money than at least one of your clients
I just finished my first full week with my new employer, and I have to admit it has been a mixed bag.
All in all, my gut tells me that this is exactly what I wanted it to be – a job I can simply “deal with” for a year or a year and a half.
I have now been working for my new employer 3 days, and I think it’ll work out OK.
I’ve been given a roster of 9 clients to see, with the good news being that they are only at 3 different locations! Not a lot of driving if I can plan it correctly.
The paperwork is slightly different from my previous employer, but only trivially so. Timesheets are timesheets, after all, and pretty much every agency that serves the disabled uses the same or similar forms to collect and report billing information. Agencies that are are vendors to the same regional centers and divisions of department of rehab will also typically end up using very similar forms to collect case notes and performance/behavior/progress documentation.
This morning was mostly spent at a home improvement store trying to figure out their computer training system. My clients that work there are subject to the same safety, ethics, etc. training requirements as their non-disabled co-workers, but they can sometimes find the test format on the computer a bit frightening. So job coaches typically give whatever level of assistance the client requires, from simply helping them get into the program and then taking a back seat to reading the material to them and helping them through the quiz at the end.
In this case, it was TOUGH! The job developer for my agency was there (training me) and both of us had problems getting through a particular test. The problem, in our opinion, was that there were in a couple of cases 2 answers that were nearly correct and it was a challenge to catch whatever was the difference. [sigh]
In other news, my eye is doing very well, I was instructed to stop using the antibiotic eye drops (but continue using the others) and given an appointment where I’ll finally get new glasses that go with this improved eye. I’m looking forward to that immensely!
Not much going on for the grad school front. There’s a welcome reception in a couple of weeks that I will certainly go to. It appears to be a Saturday brunch, which sounds great.
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.