Behind the Scenes: What it’s Like to be a Host Home Provider
When making a life changing decision such as choosing to be a host home provider, informative prose, bullet points, and testimonials can only offer limited insight. The only way to truly understand the ins and outs of what it’s actually like to open your home to a person with an intellectual and/or developmental disability is to speak with someone who is currently doing just that! We interviewed two veteran Host Home Providers, Madi and Nathan, to learn more about what the job is like for them behind the scenes.
What Inspired the Choice to Become a Host Home Provider?
For each person the answer to this question may be drastically different, but as I have learned throughout this interview, the reason itself doesn’t matter as much as that you have one. Madi and Nathan, a young couple in their mid 20’s, have embarked on their first experience as host home providers for a young woman, also in her mid 20’s, who we will call Julie. Madi revealed that her choice was inspired by love. “I fell in love with the population and we just really felt called to continue to integrate these individuals into our life.” As a social worker herself, it became important for Madi to walk the talk, so to speak. She wanted to carry the mission of integrating individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities into the community through actions outside of work in her personal life. She exclaims, “we (her and Nathan) identify with the mission to give these individuals the ability to integrate with the community and we wanted to carry out that integration in our own lives.” When things get tough, as they inevitably do, Madi shared with me that it is crucial for her to remember why she is doing this in the first place and remind herself why this is important to her.
A Typical Day in the Life
I had the pleasure of speaking candidly with Madi about her experience thus far and right off the bat Madi exclaimed that her life with her live-in client, “looks just like our normal day, just with her involved. It’s kind of like a quasi-roommate situation where we foster positive habits by incorporating her into our normal routine.” They eat breakfast together, pack lunches together and then head in different directions for the day. Madi and Nathan go to work while Julie might attend a class, go to her job at Crystal Joys, participate in a day program, or go on an outing with her mother. When the workday ends, they meet back up to go home and have dinner together. On the weekends they often hang out together, but also spend time away from each other doing different activities or just taking that necessary alone time.
It Takes a Village
Madi makes sure to point out that this routine really wouldn’t be possible without the ease of access and variety of inclusive services provided by Sample Supports. She notes that they utilize the Day Programs and Supported Employment Services during the week and the respite services on the weekends when they need to take a breather. Julie’s mother is also very involved. Madi says they have tried outside day programs, but find they are not as good a fit. “Julie is very particular,” says Madi, “she has made it clear that she only wants to do day programs at Sample Supports and that the only job she wants to go to is her job at Crystal Joys.” This job making jewelry is a one day a week position Julie found through Sample Support’s Supported Employment Program.
In addition, Julie has befriended specific individuals in the respite program and Madi feels grateful that all of these services are available through the same company. She exclaims, “everyone can be in touch better because they are in the same company, which increases the ability to create stability and consistency for Julie.” She emphasizes that stable placement is important and having a network within the same company to ease the communication process enabled them to offer more personalized programing towards Julie. Plus, they (Sample Supports) have access to a larger community of resources even outside the company which Madi says she often takes advantage of when new challenges arise. “It takes a village!” Madi exclaims, “we couldn’t do it without Sample Support’s residential team, behavioral team, and the respite options.”
What About the Challenges?
When I asked Madi to describe a challenging situation she has had to work through, I learned that sometimes a challenging situation isn’t just a moment, but a length of time where problematic behaviors are being exhibited. There is no way to prepare for these situations and again Madi praised Sample Supports, exclaiming that she finds comfort knowing that there is an entire care team from Sample Supports at her fingertips should she need help. Madi shares that in these moments, “it takes input from everyone as we come together and decide how to come beside her (Julie) while she is struggling.” It can be challenging when there are so many hands in the pot and Madi feels a sense of relief and security knowing that the behavioral team and residential team at Sample Supports advocate for her as a Host Home Provider. Tricky conversations with case workers and family members who are not active caregivers get mediated by staff at Sample Supports. Madi expresses, “managing behavior and setting boundaries is important and the staff at Sample Supports act as a buffer to make sure both parties are feeling secure and respected in the relationship.”
Now for the Highlights
I can’t help but smile as Madi shares with a sense of awe that, “this experience has allowed me to live with another human being and care for that individual when they are not even related to us (Her and Nathan); yet we find things that allows us to be like a quasi family.” To me, this sounds like a lot of today’s families, and I can relate. Madi continues, exclaiming that, “it’s so great to have these little moments when we see her know that she belongs in our home and we care for her.”
She says that the key to success is that you must go into this position without expectations, because you are caring for an adult human being who has their own idea of what their role will be in your life. Madi follows up with the fact that this person, “won’t necessarily be your best friend or the little sister you never had, but it’s a learning experience and part of the joy is finding out what type of relationship you will have. You have to be willing to allow it to develop into whatever it becomes.”
Throughout the development of their relationship with Julie thus far, Madi shares that both her and Nathan are incredibly thankful for the opportunity for personal growth that this has given them. She expresses that navigating her relationship with Julie can be a tricky balance because Julie is an adult, yet she does need support and help. “If [Julie] doesn’t want to go to work, she doesn’t have to go to work, if she wants to eat cupcakes for dinner she can, even though you can tell her that this isn’t the best choice. We are providing care for this person, so we have to make sure we are giving enough support to make sure she feels empowered, and also guided, but also make sure we are not squashing her rights and freedom as an adult!” exclaims Madi. These new situations help Madi as a young professional develop interpersonal skills that have a positive effect on relationships in all aspects of her life.
While there is no roadmap for any relationship, you can always do things to increase your chances of creating a successful one. Madi suggests that if you are considering becoming a Host Home Provider, you should make sure you know all the different dynamics for this person (their behaviors, who their community consists of, what programs they are a part of, what relationships they have with family and friends, etc.). She states, “you want to be informed upfront so you can decide if it is the right fit. You can’t plan it all, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help when you are in it and didn’t plan for things that are happening.” She also circles back around to her point at the beginning of our conversation, emphasizing that you must always remember why you started doing this in the first place. Madi’s final words of advice: “Take time throughout the process to remember why this is important to you. It is extremely valuable to make sure you are still aligned with this; both for yourself and for your client.”