January saw Robert continuing in a long-term “temporary” assignment as an office drone at Charles Schwab (for those of you who know me well, can you picture me working at, of all places, Charles Schwab?). It was, for a time, a necessary evil as I struggled to find meaningful work in the depressed NE Ohio economy. By Spring, that long– awaited day finally came when I was able to transition into a role as the manager of a group home for developmentally disabled men in Cuyahoga Falls. The work allowed me to use many of my gifts, including organizational skills and skills at relationship-building with my peers, staff, clients and their families, etc. It was meaningful work, to be sure. However, as I wrote on my blog in March:
“I learned today a bit more about what I’ve gotten myself into at work. I knew that the home I will soon be responsible for has three developmentally disabled men living there who exhibit very ‘difficult’ behaviors. Today I learned just how difficult some of these behaviors have been, involving staff ER visits, concussions, etc. One client in the home has committed a felony or two, though he wasn’t convicted, as I understand it, because of his disability. So, as I prepare to make the transition into my official duties in the home next week, I do so with a healthy sense of respect for how challenging it will be. Having said that, however, I am also keenly aware of the mystery that each one of us embodies as image-bearers of God, and I trust that the light of that image shines on even in these men I will soon be caring for, however dimly it may do so. Though it may be naive for me to say, I nonetheless will strive mightily to tend that mystery- to nurture that light- and by my example I will likewise teach my staff to do the same. In the meantime, I’ll pay close attention during my ‘crisis intervention’ (restraint) class on Wednesday.”
Well, despite my keen attention during that class I still managed to get hit, kicked, scratched, and bitten by grown, aggressive men on a near-daily basis. It was meaningful– and quite unsafe– work, especially because I always tried to put myself in the most dangerous position, say, when transporting clients in the van, rather than using my authority to ask my staff to take risks that I wouldn’t. This meant that during some perilous van trips I was sometimes attacked by two aggressive clients at the same time, and obviously the physical and psychological toll was great. That toll was exacerbated by constant staff turnover, sick calls, etc. because of the dangers and low wages of the job. So, to make a long story short, after repeatedly expressing my concerns about the group home and its dangers, four months after starting I resigned. Incidentally, upon receiving my resignation, the agency implemented many of the changes and safeguards I had been asking for (and asked me to stay, which I did not); so I am grateful that I was there long enough to make some positive changes. In July, then, I transitioned to my current employment with Summit Academy, which is a school for kids with ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome. I work as an IEP Coordinator for them, which means that I am responsible for overseeing the Individual Educational Programs for most of the students in the two buildings I work with, along with coordinating all of the testing that makes the IEP’s possible, which is known as a Multi-Factored Evaluation (MFE). I got lots of practice at doing those IEP’s and MFE’s this Fall as I completed them for 30 new students. It was a “trial by fire” which saw me working all hours of the day and night for a while, but I learned a lot in the process. Anyway, I am also a member of the administrative team in the building; so I deal with a fair bit of student discipline as well, which of course presents its own set of challenges- including the same sort of violent behavior I dealt with in the group home (hitting, kicking, scratching, biting, etc.)- though responding to a violent five-year-old is a far cry from responding to a violent thirty-five-year-old. So, I am very grateful for this new role and hopeful for my future in it.