Before I had to hire a PCA for Ruby, I never really understood how difficult it was to find just ONE smart, responsible and kind person with the skills to care for my special needs child.
I went about my search for a PCA much differently than I ever thought I would — I turned to Craigslist, where I posted a very detailed ad about the expectations and requirements of the job. At first, I had no idea if my tactics would actually work, but I thought it was worth a try. I received several resumes and conducted interviews with a few candidates. I weeded out those candidates who didn’t have a college degree, which at the time, seemed to me like a requirement for the position. After checking references and conducting background checks, I hired our first PCA, Julia, who had a social work degree and tons of experience caring for children and adults with disabilities.
At first, Julia was great. She was good with Ruby and seemed like a very sharp gal. She’d even text me on her way to my house in the morning to see if she could get me anything from Starbucks! But as she got more comfortable with me, she also started showing up late every morning, marking down mileage that I know she didn’t accrue and generally started taking an attitude with me. After a confrontation with her about incorrect mileage that I wasn’t going to pay, Julia texted me that she was quitting THAT DAY. I was in an absolute panic! I am a single mom and I work full-time, so I relied on her to support Ruby while I worked during the day.
Luckily, my mom was able to back me up and watch Ruby while I searched for another PCA. I went back to Craigslist and posted the same ad as before. Shortly after posting the ad, I received an email from a woman who was just writing to offer me advice. She encouraged me to think outside the box when selecting my PCA and shared how she didn’t have a college degree but that a kind family hired her as their son’s PCA, and she has been a part of their family for the last seven years. That email really got me thinking — did a college degree really matter if the person had experience, was kind and loved children? No, it didn’t.
That weekend, I interviewed April, a PCA with experience caring for adults with special needs, but no college degree. April shared with me that she was a single mom with a 7-year old daughter. Because she became pregnant at age 19 and was raising her daughter solo, she was never able to complete her college degree. She had such a calming presence about her and I immediately felt at ease with her sitting on the couch across from me. At that moment, I knew that I had found THE right PCA for us. April’s background check cleared and she was able to start watching Ruby the following week.
Two years later, April and her daughter have become such an important part of our lives. April always shows up on time in the morning so that I’m not late for work (she truly knows how important this is for me), she volunteers to watch Ruby on the weekends on occasion so that I can get a single mommy break, she joins me at medical appointments so that I have support and another set of ears, and above all — she is a real friend. I can’t imagine what our lives would be like had I not opened up my mind to hiring someone without a college degree.
April has been so inspired by Ruby, that today, she is pursuing her degree in early childhood special education and I’m happy to support her in every way as she works to achieve this amazing goal.
For those of you out there searching for a PCA — I wish you the best of luck and urge you to keep an open mind when considering candidates. You just never know who might end up being YOUR angel!
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