It’s not often you find people who rave about their job. Who can’t say enough good things about their team. Who say they go home fulfilled at the end of every day.
But over several years, that’s what we’ve found, interview after interview. From managers to direct support professionals, the disability advocates at ALSO love their jobs. In fact, they love their jobs and stay for decades. That’s unusual anywhere these days, but especially so in an industry with notoriously high turnover.
This enduring job satisfaction seemed important, not only for the people who work at ALSO, but for the individuals ALSO supports, who certainly benefit from long-standing relationships with staff. So we interviewed some of ALSO’s long-term employees (including a married couple who met at ALSO), to find out why they stay and how that career longevity creates better lives for the people ALSO supports. This blog specifically features an interview with Darrin Barham. Stay tuned for future blogs with additional interviews.
October 2009 marked the beginning of a new phase in Darrin Barham’s life. After a friend told him about the brand new Supported Living Services program at ALSO, he interviewed for the Supported Living Program Coordinator position. Then he gave a kidney to his father. ”I found out afterward I got the job, “ says, Darrin. “It felt like a fresh start for my dad and myself—a new beginning with people that would be a part of my life going forward.”
Darrin has stayed at ALSO for a variety of reasons, but a big one is the camaraderie, with both the individuals ALSO supports (more on that later) and with ALSO’s team. “I love our team,” he says. “I love our executive team, our managers, and the people we hire to provide support (direct support professionals). We’ve built a strong foundation of people that I love to spend time with, that I love to be around on a regular basis.” A shared mission underlies that foundation. “We all work on the same goals—to help people live the life they want to live—so there are a lot of resources that are available to help you make any decisions. You don’t feel like you’re on an island by yourself.“
That kind of support is especially important during difficult times. “Not every situation has been pleasant…If things don’t work out, then having that team support behind you, people letting you know that you did everything you could; it really does wonders for your confidence.”
That confidence and joy overflows into Darrin’s work with the individuals he supports. “I love meeting with family members and individuals looking for support, and learning what they want their life to look like,” says Darrin. “We’re building a future with them; building a team to help them achieve the goals that are important in their lives.”
Darrin emphasizes that supported living services help individuals with intellectual and development disabilities live the life they want to live, “not just telling people how you think they should live, but listening to learn how they want to live, and then helping guide them down their path, and being part of that journey with them.”
The journeys are another reason Darrin stays at ALSO. He loves to watch the progress. “It’s fun to go see someone after six months (in supported living services) and watch the individual spreading their wings and actually living independently—doing things that maybe their whole their lives they’ve been told they probably can’t do.”
Even family members sometimes need convincing that independence is possible. “At the initial meeting they might say, ‘I can’t foresee my child living on their own.’ I always tell them that there’s a myth out there that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can’t live on their own. We crush that myth every day.”
“We have two individuals right now who live in their own places They are staffed one-on-one, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It’s their home; they live by themselves; it’s just that they have twenty-four hour support.” Darrin says people are amazed when they hear that level of independence can be achieved with in-home supportive services. “It is a lot of hard work, because you have to hire people you can trust and believe in, who show dependability and reliability.”
Darrin believes that trust and reliability are doubly important to the people ALSO supports. “It’s hard for them to be vulnerable and open about letting people into their lives and their homes if they can’t trust that somebody’s going to be there on a long-term basis,” he says. “If they can sense that someone won’t be there long, then they’re not going to open up their life to that person…they’ll just hang tight until the next person comes along that they can totally trust.“
“I can’t tell you how many times my life has been impacted in positive ways just because of the people that we support and their perspective on life,” Darrin says. “That is one of the things I’ve really enjoyed—just seeing the lens of life through other people’s perspectives.”
That two-way impact has kept Darrin at ALSO for fourteen years, and he doesn’t see that ending anytime soon. “This isn’t like any other job where you clock in, clock out, and go home. You truly become part of people’s lives, and they become part of your life. To me it’s a calling, not a job.”
ALSO provides both exemplary disability support services, and a supportive, team-based employment environment.
Looking for in-home supportive services for yourself or a family member with an intellectual or developmental disability? ALSO can provide the guidance and support you need. Register for a free tour today!
Searching for jobs working with people with disabilities? Check out ALSO’s career opportunities—from direct support professional jobs to managerial positions—and make an impact today!
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