Building a support team without driving anyone to drink with Faith Clarke

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Be sure to register for Faith’s upcoming webinar for the Good Things In Life community on December 9th at 12pm Eastern.

Faith Clarke asks potential home care staff to imagine dropping through a wormhole and landing on another planet. And then the interview really gets going.

Leveraging her training in performance psychology and adult education, Faith has turned finding, onboarding, and retaining home support workers for her son Jayden into an art and a science.

Join me in conversation with Faith as she offers her thoughts on finding the right fit for her family and shares the replicable, values-based system that can help you find the right fit for yours. She is fearless and frank in own self-examination and in the way she invites others to share themselves with her in the service of finding a caregiving relationship that really works.

On this episode of the podcast, Faith and I talk about knowing your needs and making sure that you’re not just getting to “yes,” you’re getting there with the right person. We commiserate over the uncomfortable dance between under- and over-disclosure, and the power of truly getting to know people as they are.

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Building a home staff team that won’t drive you (or your child) crazy.

Welcome to the Good Things in Life podcast. I’m your host, Genia Stephen. Today, I’m speaking with Faith Clarke, organizational health and teamwork specialist. Faith started out as a computer programmer on Wall Street, but quickly identified her passion for teaching, and she spent several years teaching undergraduate and graduate level, computer science. Her fascination with human motivation and her personal experiences as a mom of a child with autism led her to a doctoral studies degree in performance psychology, and as a teamwork strategist and inclusion specialist, Faith combines her degrees in computer science, adult education and performance psychology, and helps startups and social impact organizations increase their productivity through people and processes. She’s the author of Parenting Like a Ninja, an Amazon bestseller, and the co-founder of and CEO of Melody of Autism, an educational organization helping families with autistic children. Faith also helps her younger two children, Simone, 19, and Zachary, 16 with their first business, Inspire Action, a creative art company that offers illustrations and inspiring stories in art.

Genia Stephen (01:21):
Jayden, 21, who has non-verbal autism, is interested in writing a book about his experience with anxiety. Now, I first came across Faith on Facebook. Somehow — I’m not even sure how we got connected, but somehow I saw a post that she, um, had shared about how she goes about organizing, uh, when thinking about supporting new support workers or supporters to really have a Jayden-focused approach, um, to their work and to understanding sort of the deeper roots of their work. And also in a way that is just really structured, which I just love, because one of the things that I’ve experienced over decades is that onboarding, training, and supporting support workers can be chaotic, um, messy, confusing for everybody, the family and the support worker. And it can be really, really helpful if you’re not recreating the wheel every time. And so Faith really caught my eye with her post and I reached out to her. Faith Clark, thank you so much for joining me today on the Good Things in Life podcast. I’m really excited to have you here. As you know, I’ve kind of been fangirling for a while on your work and your personality. I just, uh, am really enjoying getting to know you online and so thankful to be having this conversation with you face to face on Zoom, but still live and face-to-face, so welcome.

Faith Clarke (03:01):
Thank you, Genia. And thank you so much for having me, it’s — even our pre-conversation has been encouraging and energizing for me and for Jayden as he’s walking around.

Genia Stephen (03:11):
Awesome. Well, Faith, why don’t you start by introducing yourself and talking about your relationship with people with disabilities and their families?

Faith Clarke (03:19):
Sure. So it’s always hard, I think, when people say, who are you and I start with “I’m a mom.” And yet that, that is so in conflict with what I say to many women, which is kind of for you at your core, right? So I think I, at my core, I’m the person who, who notices what people need and build a relationship with them so that I can be that voice, that support that says, let’s take the next step together. And my kids have been the laboratory that I’ve tested all of the ways that I’ve learned to work with people. I mean, I got some training before in volunteer work and stuff like that. So I’m a mom of a 21-year-old with autism who has challenges of an autism diagnosis, 19-year-old, 16-year-old. So our, our home is pretty dynamic right now.

Faith Clarke (04:11):
And as a mom, I had, I used to believe I could keep everybody on the same path. And so now 21, 19 and 16, I’ve thoroughly learned that that’s not possible: everybody’s needs are completely different. And I, I, I, perhaps people say, how many special needs kids do I have? And I say all, um, because we didn’t do diagnoses beyond Jayden doesn’t mean that everybody, each child, doesn’t have their own pretty complex set of needs and gifts. And so I say that we are a house full of high sensitive people, autism being one representation of that, but we deal with a range of other, um, gifts and challenges. And so with Jayden coming on the scene, I had decided to homeschool because it felt emotionally draining to argue with systems about what I felt my son needed. And so my engagement with families of people with, with autism came out of that experience as I homeschooled.

Faith Clarke (05:13):
And as I found resources that were supportive to Jayden or strategies that were supported to Jayden or people that were supportive to Jayden and other families would say to me, do you know anyone who…? And so coming out of my own background, as I used to be an academic, I used to teach college students, I did some curriculum design, like, hmm, can I, can I encapsulate what I do into curriculum and then help other families train people? And so my relationship in the earlier years was really around this. I came alongside families and then helped them find people and helped them train the people. And so, and at this point in time, I’m kind of, now my kids are older. So you respond to the needs of the, their, them at current stage, which is, you know, independence and autonomy and this kind of longer view on life and in terms of occupation. And so I’m helping with that with them and then helping organizations who think about those questions.

Genia Stephen (06:11):
And we were talking before we started recording about the first, I think we got connected through a mutual acquaintance. I’m not even sure who that was on Facebook. So, like, not a particularly intimate introduction, but I, you know, my, on my Facebook feed, one of your posts came up and it was, um, a principled and valued approach to orienting new supporters in a really person centered, you know, Jayden-centered kind of way. And that struck me, struck a chord with me for two reasons. One, because it was principled and values-based. Um, and two, because it’s a replicable system. And so I was saying to you earlier, one of the things that I’ve been really thinking a lot about over the last year is how every time my family looks to, um, hire supporters for my younger sister, who’s in her forties, like, you know, very much adult, not transitional, you know, she’s um, and now as I’m working on that for my son as well, it feels like we’re recreating the wheel and like insert cuss word, super awkward. Like I hate doing this.

Faith Clarke (07:33):
It’s horrible! It can feel awful.

Genia Stephen (07:33):
It is so awkward. And, and it feels invasive. And, and I feel like we’re recreating, like we don’t have any systems in place and I’m not a big, like, you know, I’m not a big in the box kind of that’s, that’s not my jam, right? Like, but the idea of thinking, okay, so we pull out this, that being said, the starting over every time is terrible. So this idea of having some values-based, principle-based systems for how you, um, decrease the stress and the awkwardness of that, roll out an orientation, um, for supporters that is, that is, um, you know, positively experienced by both the family, which of course includes the individual being supported, um, and the supporter, um, that to me is like what I’ve been looking for for a year. So I wonder if you could just maybe talk a little bit about how you go about thinking about, organizationally, bringing some, some peace and some decrease in the awkwardness, stress and, and workload of supporting people by, you know, creating some of these processes.

Faith Clarke (08:51):
Yeah, it was, you know, this has been years because with Jayden, I think I started this work for, for my family when Jay was, I think I had my first support person. He was five and he’s 21 now. So it’s been a lot of years of seeing how hard this is feeling it in my body, quitting it many times not firing people when I should have, um, and all of the, the, the ways that this could feel yucky. Um, so my approach to it now kind of is anchored in this one thought, which is that, which is that people are productive when they get what they crave. When we meet core human needs, people, people are productive, right? And, and when we meet core human needs, it’s kind of psychologically energizing and physically energizing. And, you know, and so I want the relationship with Jayden to be something that meets Jayden’s core needs and meets their core needs at the same time.

Faith Clarke (09:54):
And so I’m kind of holding that at the very basic level. And I am quick now to set things up so that I can articulate the core needs that he has. And I can also search for a person’s core needs with, and have those things in the beginning before we are hired. Before we are in the, in the kind of, um, initial stages where I’m talking to you about your resume and other things, because, um, it became emotionally draining. I fall in love with people very easily. And so it became emotionally draining to kind of, “Oh, you’re amazing, this is good!” And then like, “Oh, you don’t love us. And you don’t love my son.” And then, you know, or we’ll try it for a couple of weeks. And then, and there’s this persistent fear that I will be rejected and my son will be rejected.

Faith Clarke (10:46):
And so that starts with my post. And I’m like, I remember fluctuating on this a lot and still do, like, I could have a super clinical post looking for wherever I’m posting, it could be, you know, in job boards or it could be in social media, but I could have like super clinical looking for a person who is available after school for blah, blah, blah, and doing these things, recreational support. And that’s cool, but then I can go completely whimsical looking for people who want to radically disrupt, um, the lives of, uh, you know, the care system, or want to be superheroes, or want to energize the core of their souls. And, and like, I found that, depending on the language I use certain kinds of people respond. And then within the context of these people responding, when I look at their backgrounds, it’s not as important to me to see whether they have educational training and special needs and stuff like that.

Faith Clarke (11:41):
What kinds of stuff have they been doing for this very purpose of energizing, their, their souls, you know, and when people have been doing things that feel like they’ve already been seeking this, then that becomes a doorway for a really great conversation to hear their values when it’s hard for people to tell me their story in their application, um, it’s not that I, it’s not that they don’t have the story and maybe don’t have ways to share that story if not in the writing, but I don’t have the time to pull that from them. The saviour in me, the, the, the teacher in me wants to help them. So I’d be like getting on the phone in the past, getting on the phone. I want to help them express their story but now, I’m really the way that I have the time to know, if you can express your values to me is by you answering these questions in my application. The other thing that I really want as a person who’s curious, and who, who curiosity is a way that they meet their core needs. And so when I send people as like, Hey, watch this video before we talk, watch this video and tell me what you thought then, how would they answer that? And the video tends to be something a little bit disruptive, how they answer that kind of helps me pay attention. Yeah.

Genia Stephen (12:55):
So what are the, what are the questions and what kind of, you said that you, you send them some questions to sort of draw out their story. What are those questions and what are the videos that you, or the types of videos that you send?

Faith Clarke (13:09):
I tend to use, I’ll go with the videos first, because the videos are usually more important to me. I, I believe for Jayden that the sky’s the limit for him and that, although he has limitations, his limitations are in his body and that his body was not cooperating with the core of who he is. Um, and I want people who believe that or who were willing to believe that. So they’re not going to make assumptions about him based on the presentation of his body. So I look for videos that really challenge that. Um, and so it could be the one I’m sharing right now is, um, there’s a, she’s a Canadian, um, educator, and she has a video called “Presuming Competence” where she talks about working with this, um, person with autism. I think the person was blind and she was under the table —

Genia Stephen (13:58):
Shelley Moore?

Faith Clarke (14:02): It was Shelley Moore, exactly. I forgot her name at the moment. And so I use that video and I spark, what did you think? I leave it wide open. What did you think? What did you notice? And depending on what they come back to me with, and I, cause I’m like, “Did you really watch it?” you know, and some people want to be very so like, “Yeah, yeah, I agree with that completely. “And so-and-so and so like what, but what did you, you know, how would you have handled this kind of thing with this person under the table and how did that feel to you? Often? I find that when I asked those kinds of questions and send that, and people don’t answer most people who aren’t appropriate, just don’t answer the second round of questions and that’s fine. So you bring them down to, you know, four or whatever who then get invited to interview.

Faith Clarke (14:46):
So I choose disruptive of videos that, um, lean into the values disruption as I want them to pay attention. And Shelley is my current go-to person. I might also choose a video that has a really difficult thing going on, um, a child, really having, a young person, an adult, really having a hard time and then just ask them what are their feelings on that? And listen for language that sounds, um, limiting when, in there, in their answers to that. So ask that the other questions I ask are also pretty straightforward, just like, what’s your background with this? Why is this interesting to you? Why are you responding to this post? Um, but I’m listening for story, not pat answers. Yeah. And so, um, by the time I’ve scheduled an interview with someone, I and, this kind of sounds a little bit mechanistic, but when it, by the time I’ve scheduled an interview with someone, if people have difficulties with the technology, if people have difficulties, if people aren’t able to problem solve, you know, whatever it is, then they won’t be able to work with me. Faith Clarke (15:51):

And parts of, I have to include myself in this, right. That it’s meeting their need, and it’s meeting my need, and I can’t problem-solve things for them. So then just their difficulty with that. So I have, I guess all I’m saying at this point is that I have lots of ways for them to say no, before they meet—

Genia Stephen (16:14):
I love that, yeah. I love that.

Faith Clarke (16:14):
Right? And in the interview, even though I talk with them about stuff, I try to say, “This isn’t good for you if…” and I have a bunch of things that I might have noticed this isn’t going to work for you on, on this blah, blah, blah.

Genia Stephen (16:29):
Right. Okay. So as you’re — sorry, did I just cut you off?

Faith Clarke (16:33):
I had another thought, but let me hear your —

Genia Stephen (16:35):
No, no, no, go for it. Go for it. Finish your thought.

Faith Clarke (16:38):
I have a question, an interview question that I like, um, which tends to be asking them to imagine themselves, um, on, uh, dropping through a worm hole or a black hole landing on another planet. And I give them an entire fantasy scene to imagine. And then how would they respond to it? Built into that is a couple of “you are the alien” kind of ideas and how do you want to be treated and stuff. But fundamentally, first of all, if they’re not willing to go there with me, then they’re not a good fit to work with me. I try to let the interview be an opportunity for them to see exactly how strange I can be. And so it’s like, if you feel, if, if this is a path that’s hard for you, um, and then if they’re not able to see that, oh, maybe, maybe people with autism or maybe people with disabilities are just like me, if they can’t, if they don’t get there in the story, then it means that they’re not a good fit either.

Genia Stephen (17:32):
Right. So here’s the problem that I consistently have. And I’ve been doing this for decades as well. Um, you know, with my sister, I am a terrible judge of who’s going to be great, mostly because often it is people who I’m like, this is a hell no for you. Right? Like I’m just like no way. And then usually when I think back over it, not in my son’s life, but in my sister’s life, very often the people who end up being best are the people who I started thinking, uh-uh, like I am, I am not into you. You are not going to be good at this. Like, you know. So, do you find that the process that you have for screening and hiring people helps you with your own sort of lens and filter and bias around like people you might want to spend time with or people who you, you know, like, does it help with that? Or maybe you just don’t have this problem of meeting people and just being like, Oh my gosh, no, you’re a no.

Faith Clarke (18:45):
Yeah. Well, I do, I do have that. And what I have to do when that happens is to kind of notice it and pause it. So I’ll, I’ll be in, I let that no be there for two interactions with the person and I keep checking. Is it really, is it really no. If there are other things that are saying, yes, it could be that I have a gut feeling like, no, but then they keep checking off my yes boxes as I go through the process with them. So I kind of hold it sometimes that no is “not exactly.” And so it’s me kind of holding tension and I have a, I have somebody that I hired recently that the, I was hiring them for a particular, interacting with a particular way, over a particular span of time. And it became, Oh, they’re a better fit for something that’s —

Genia Stephen (19:30):
Something else, yeah.

Faith Clarke (19:31):
— short term and within, you know, and so it’s, it’s kind of like a pause versus me kind of saying, “Again?” Like I’m in this thing with these people who don’t, you know, and so I kind of like what, it’s, again, me using my value of curiosity. I was like, what’s that mean, what am I noticing here? I also, and this might sound wonky, um, but I’m when my brain is saying, no, I’m checking. I try to check deeper. So that’s actually, when I go straight up crazy with people. With one particular person, I said, “So I’m feeling a little bit, like, you might be feeling sad right now. What’s going on?” And then I just, you know, and she went with it. So I was like, Oh, well that’s a straight yes. That she would in the moment open up enough for me. And we went and talked about Corona and like, okay. So I still feel this no, but, but she’s, I tried to go faster and I tried to not be afraid of confirming that no. Um, and so for me, it’s, let’s confirm the no. If it’s a no let’s, let’s confirm it. Let’s do it fast because I’ve had a lot of experience of doing it slowly, like months. And it’s reinventing the wheel that we do is we knew people weren’t a good fit and we kept, kept, kept, kept, kept going, trying to, trying to them into a good fit.

Faith Clarke (20:48):
And then it doesn’t work. So I’m like, if it’s a no, let me know now. And so then I tried to push to get that no clearer and processed. And part of parts of the thing I, I’m having a sense that some of this is torture us because of how time-consuming it can be. So I am not afraid now to have group interviews. And in early in my interactions with Jayden’s staff, one of the first things I did was to get everybody together at the same time. And so my first meeting with people, both assessed my, how I felt about them and how they interacted with each other, because I’m, this is a team thing. And if you can’t talk about yourself in a group, this isn’t going to work. And so when he was smaller, I would have, I just, you know, like rent a yoga studio or something for an hour, tell everybody to meet me there and had everybody talk about why they were there. And so that kind of thinned things out, cause people who didn’t like that kind of thing, didn’t show up, people who wouldn’t talk didn’t get invited back. And so, and that was one hour of my time. So then by the time I’m talking to them, one to one, we’ve already done multiple layers of elimination.

Genia Stephen (22:01):
Hey there, if you want to learn more from Faith about building a really good team of supporters around your son or daughter with a disability, join us for the masterclass, the webinar that faith is offering us on this topic. I’m so super excited about this because this is so close to my heart and just, you know, things I need to get better at this is high on the list. You can find out more information and register at

Genia Stephen (22:34):
So one of the reasons why this is excruciating for me, this, these processes are excruciating for me is because it feels like — it feels very vulnerable and it feels like I am in an awkward dance of under-disclosing, and so not being clear, a clear communicator with people or over-disclosing and violating my loved one’s privacy for somebody who may never spend any time with them. You know? So, part of it for me is definitely feeling like I don’t have good systems in place that find that sweet spot in the middle between those two things. Um, and then, so, I have another thought about why it’s excruciating, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on that, like that clearly communicating with people without, you know, talking about people’s personal lives, like our loved ones’ personal lives to total strangers who may never actually come to know them.

Faith Clarke (23:43):
Yeah. Um, and so I think parts of that for me, has become not being afraid of asking them to be vulnerable with me. I get that it’s unfair. I get that. It’s not balanced that they’re, I’m asking them to disclose vulnerably and they may never be hired. But for me, that’s the level-setting. Right? So when a person, one of the questions I ask, which I forgot about is what have you gone through that has been hard for you and how did you overcome it? People are able to disclose it. Doesn’t have to be gory details, but disclose some amounts of vulnerability to me. Then it feels like they qualify for, for me, representing, I tell, I tell people that I am Jayden’s people, you know, cause it’s like introduce your people to my people. I’m the people. So for me to kind of bring my son’s stuff to you, I have to hear if you are open enough to kind of share at a vulnerable place.

Faith Clarke (24:42):
So that’s kind of one there. I became comfortable asking for the disclosure and not thinking that there’s anything wrong with that or unfair about that or unbalanced about it or anything like that. Um, and then too, I learned to, and Jayden doesn’t, Jayden is not reliably verbal, and he does communicate somewhat by typing. So I have a fair sense of what he is willing to share with people. Um, and I think for people who are able to express that and we go with what they’re able to share, but then I’d ask like, can I talk to people about blah, blah, blah. But in terms of like his personal, like didn’t, he need support with activities of daily living and stuff like that. I use those phrases, activities of daily living, and then I’ll ask what support have you offered persons in their activities of daily living? And then I listen for them and I asked things like, what’s the worst, what’s the most challenging that you’ve dealt with? What was very difficult for you? Because I want to hear the kinds of struggles that other people have had, not by names. They’re not telling me the names of the people. They’re just giving me the stories. And then that helps me know if they qualify to hear my son’s hard moments as well.

Genia Stephen (26:01):
Right, so how respectful they are in their, in their description of somebody else’s story is insightful about how trustworthy they are. That makes a lot of sense. And I think another part that’s hard for me is simultaneous aspects of my personality or my character, where on the one hand I desperately don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings or, you know, make anybody uncomfortable. And I am simultaneously terribly blunt and straightforward. And so this, uh, I find, I find this sort of, I don’t know whether it’s that sort of be a good girl, make everybody happy, you know, like I’m not really sure where that comes from. Certainly the, the, um, shinier side of that coin is that, um, is that I, I do feel for people and I, you know, I have a strong sense of empathy for how uncomfortable that is for people. Um, and I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, but for me, and this is definitely, um, directly personal, this is not going to be what everybody experiences, but I definitely have that sort of dichotomy between like, I really, really don’t want to upset somebody or hurt somebody or make somebody feel uncomfortable. And on the other hand, I am not one of those people who, um, people just love to be around because I make everybody feel super comfortable and I just have this wonderful way of being disarming. That is not me. So I think it takes, like, doing this well also takes a bit of, I don’t know, courage or bravery around just being like, “I may very well royally mess this up, but I’m going to do it anyway.” And, you know, um, so there’s, there’s some sort of like personal vulnerability there too. That is separate from, um, separate from the vulnerability of our loved ones. If that makes sense. I’m not sure if I’m actually making any sense at all.

Faith Clarke (28:15):
Absolutely. No, no. I mean, I’m completely, I understand that. I feel it. Um, and the thing there though, is that if people can’t work with me as I am on my worst day, then they’re not good fits for the team. This, this is not dating. We’re not, we’re not kind of, okay, this is me with my lipstick on, and this is, this is you have to be willing to step into my life as crazy as it is. And I have to like, especially this round, because now, you know, Jayden was in school, and now he’s back home, especially with this round. What hit me was that I, you, I have to be willing to allow you into my home during a time when we don’t even know if humans are safe with other humans, like we have all the conspiracy theories about do or do not do. And, and so there is this complete vul — there’s no avoiding the vulnerability of, I include you into my life. So why not? Let’s go for it. Um, and some of the, some of the ways that I have done that for myself, and there is a lot there, a massive amount of self work that I’ve had to do to be willing to let people in in the ways that I do, because at the beginning, cause I wouldn’t do some of the, that work. I didn’t believe it was possible. So I had no people, there was long years of, I am doing the processes and attracting no one and I’m attracting no one because I really believe no one wants to do this. And I don’t want to kind of let them into see really me because then they won’t love me and they won’t love my son. So there was, yes, there is this massive amount of internal work for us to be able to get the support that we need. And I have coaches and people kind of walking me through that. Um, but then right, now, you’ve seen how I share maybe in Facebook and stuff like that. I make it my business to share as transparently as possible. So when people have had the first encounter with me in an interview setting, I know for sure they’re searching social media, I send them stuff I’ve written, like I have pretty vulnerable written pieces and I was like here, this is me talking about special needs mom’s life.

Faith Clarke (30:31):
If being in that, isn’t something that’s for you. And if being with me as I’m expressing it, isn’t something for you that this isn’t going to work. So I’m, again, back to that, giving people lots of ways to say no, because I am, I know, I think I have to shift to knowing the amazing opportunity this is. I’m not really just inviting people to help me. I am inviting people to re-engage their souls. And I have to remember that, wait, you’re a, bad-ass, actually. Being in your presence is helpful to people. So once I kind of remind myself all those things, then I know that this is a really good exchange that will happen for the right person. So then I’m not, I’m just filtering a whole lot less. Um, and I tell people, like I’m saying, so I’ll reach out to you in 24 hours. And then I say, and if I haven’t, it’s because I haven’t, I’ve forgotten, or my son is not sleeping nights, so just text me. It’s okay. And, and I, I am giving people lots and lots of information about this is how my life is. It can be kind of crazy. Um, and, um, yeah, so I don’t know if that was helpful, but

Genia Stephen (31:39):
Yeah, I, I think you may have actually answered this question, but it’s still surfacing for me. How do you, how do you, like, do you just come right out and say like, this is you need to be able to handle me, you know, in my pajamas, unshowered and you know, my grumpiest-ass self. And if you can’t, this isn’t, this isn’t right. Like, you know, this isn’t going to work. Like, do you kind of come out really clearly with people and just point out that there are going to be some challenges around this work that they just need to suck up. You know, like the, the fact that they’re existing in people’s homes, you know, and with all of the dynamics and eccentricities of family life and home life. And how do you, how do you put that out there? Or is it sort of this, this process, as you’re saying of just like giving people opportunities in many creative ways just to come to a no, or do you table it?

Faith Clarke (32:44):
Yeah. So that piece, that’s a great question. How do I know that piece? I think, um, I’m looking for people who are good at improv in life. Um, and I actually love performing artists and I love, um, people who have done a lot of body work. I, I look for people who are, who have allowed themselves to know how to respond to the moment. If in my conversations, I feel that they are strong with that, and they’d given me stories that helped me know that they’ve been doing that in their lives and other people’s lives, I don’t worry so much about the extent to which I need to disclose what’s happening. What I do disclose is, um, the types of challenges that Jayden deals with and he deals with significant mood swings.

Faith Clarke (33:34):
So I will talk about what a swing looks like and people say, so what does that look like? And I will describe fast movement and loud sounds and rushing around and don’t stand in his way. And you know, that kind of thing. I’m pretty specific where that’s concerned without stating conclusions. I tell them, I don’t like people saying to me, my son is aggressive piss me off. Aggressive is a conclusion where you can say, he pushed and he, you know, and so on. So I I’m very clear with that, but in terms of family, and then also my kids are, my one I have, my 16-year-old’s out at school. Whereas my 19-year-old is home and I disclose, that as well. So I’m looking for people who are going to be in the rhythm of people all around. And then before they’re hired by the third interaction, they’ve come to visit me at home.

Faith Clarke (34:26):
That’s the first time they come to my home at the third interaction. So then I’m checking, uh, I don’t have to disclose the chaos cause it’s just happening. But then, um, I’m watching how Jayden’s responding to them. My other two are so kind of antenna high sensitive. So then I, I, I just like, how did that feel? And those are more the questions. So I, I think that people give verbal assent to the things we say, and that’s not necessarily trustworthy. So I’m really looking for the other things that will give me the feedback that I need. And so my doctor said to me, how’d you find these people, normally people come into the space and you can feel them taking up space. These people didn’t take up any space. I’m like, exactly, that was the thing. I don’t want people to take up space because we have a lot of space taking up already, you know? So there is this intuitive sense and I tend to encourage parents to trust their intuition and to let their kids, um, guide that in whatever way. Um, they’re, they’re pers — their, their young adult or their child that is looking for the support. They have a really goood radar around what that is.

Genia Stephen (35:41):
Yeah. That’s, that’s really helpful. So one of the things that, one of the things that I have heard people say not necessarily directly in, in relationship to hiring supporters, but, um, people I’ve heard people say hire fast fire faster, you know, in the sort of like, so the hire, I mean, we’ve talked a lot about hiring, um, so it’s not that aspect of it, but I feel like you said earlier, you know, the sort of like you keep trying to make it work and months go by. And then you’re like, obviously I knew from day one, it wasn’t going to work, but we kept trying, we kept trying, we kept trying kind of thing. So there is an element of that sort of fire fast piece, which I would love to hear you talk about, but I’ve also observed people who actually do. I think the answer to my question, I’m going to save my question, then I’m going to tell you what I think you’re going to say or some version of what I think you’re going to say.

Genia Stephen (36:44):
I, I have seen people many, many times take years to become phenomenal, but I think the things that you have talked to, maybe the difference, you know, in giving those people time to become phenomenal, maybe the difference is that some of those things around, you know, are they good at improv in life? You know, can they respond to the moment, even if it’s not, you know, phenomenal, do they take up a ton of space? Um, you know, can they handle being in another person’s home and letting home life just happen around them? Those things are probably there, even if the person’s ability to support somebody, to really stretch their life, you know, acquire new roles and really succeed in their life. Even if that kind of growth takes years, some of these baseline things are, are still there. So I suspect maybe that’s, that’s my anticipation of how you’re going to answer that sort of fire fast versus understanding that people will grow into the role. But I’m curious about whether or not I’m right, or you have something else.

Faith Clarke (37:57):
So as a, just switch into my organizational head, I do believe at, um, if you find the right people, then there’s more a question of what’s their right place. Um, and their right place is a reflection of, you know, their core values and needs in the moment and the skills that they have in the moment. And you can move a person around, into different places as their skills develop, but do they have the core competencies that you need in that moment now to just be human, these core competencies that you need now may change. In 2022, you need something else. So I think it’s okay for you to say, this person is phenomenal, whatever that means, but they fit my life right now. They, they can be in this space and I can find a space for them that would be mutually beneficial. It would be helpful to me.

Faith Clarke (38:51):
Um, that doesn’t mean that like, so I have people Jayden communicates through spelling, and there’s a bunch of training that you have to go through to be able to be comfortable with that. And some people rush through that fast and they’re comfortable. Some people don’t spell with him at all, and that’s fine. They don’t have to spell with him to be good people for him in his life. You know? So it’s finding that that kind of fit. And then, but second to that though, is it’s not my job to help people become phenomenal. So if they’re not a good fit, no, they’re just not a good fit now. And that doesn’t mean that they aren’t awesome people in other spaces. I have to be willing, because there’s the caretaker in me wants to be helping people develop. And I, I want to help people develop, but I need to kind of say, I want to help you develop from this place of being a good fit for my family and being supportive in the way that I need it right now, otherwise then you just become another student, another client, another child, another somebody that I’m giving out to.

Faith Clarke (39:48):
And that’s something I have to protect myself from. So that’s, that’s kind of how I see that. And then in terms of, you know, there’s nothing perfect. So people change and I can miss something and Jayden’s needs can change. So then what’s the, um, what do I do when, when something is changing? And I think I, I, I have become more willing to, to notice it. It’s like, Hey, you know, such and such feels different is, you know, what’s happening, is something different? And in the cases where, um, it’s possible, I actually give more feedback that the last — I am a very laid back person to work for so that people are doing what they’re doing. And I’m like, I’m fine. You do it. And it’s like, is this right? I’m like, whatever you think is right is right, because I trust you and I’m kind of loose, but then if something is feeling off, then I might be, let’s meet each week and talk about the thing. Was it, um, let’s do a video feedback. So when you’re with Jayden kind of record, and then let’s watch this together, I give us more opportunities to be in dialogue so I can hear what exactly is happening. And usually for the person who is having, there’s a mismatch either emerging, or it was there in the first place. Once I start to give more scrutiny, they self-disclose at this, this isn’t working out.

Genia Stephen (41:07):
Yeah. That’s helpful. So let’s talk about, uh, for a couple of minutes about recruitment. So you said, you know, you might be posting a really clinical poster. You might be posting kind of a more disruptive or woo-ey post, for lack of a better term, and you might post on job boards and that kind of thing. Do you ever recruit, do, do you always sort of just go to like standard employment, recruitment, um, avenues, or do you sometimes look for sort of interest based or strengths-based spaces where you might recruit? Like, if Jayden is interested in somebody to support him to, I don’t know, become a better basketball player or something like that. And you’ve got a local basketball league that he likes to, I’m not a sports fan, so I may have this all wrong, but you know, he wants to go out to more games and you know, that kind of thing. Do you then think about like, where is, where are the other people who are really good at basketball and know a lot about the local team, or are you always doing sort of generic searches in your recruitment?

Faith Clarke (42:17):
I’m either doing generic, as I described where I’m putting the interests in the post, really, really excited about getting people to work on phys. ed. and who are strong in math. I might add my, put that there. Um, or I’m talking to families, uh, because I find I — it might be just bad experiences and trauma — I find, um, talking to organizations that represent these interests painful, just painful. So I tend to talk with the families who have been served by the different organizations to get who do you know? So who’s helping your kid with swimming, um, and, and go, I’ll go on Facebook, who knows somebody, who’s been helping a kid who is an adult, but kinda dysregulated with swimming. And I, and I do it that way more. I’d love to be in, in, um, I’d love to meet somebody who is an artist was really strong with graphic arts and also, you know, interested in, you know, social and emotional health. Um, and I find that, uh, families who already are answering the questions I’m answering, like, like you were saying, the better resource for referrals, if I am, if I’m not going to just go generic.

Genia Stephen (43:32):
Right. And so when you said you’re, you’ve had bad experiences with, um, reaching out to organizations, do you mean like disability-specific organizations or do you mean like the local basketball league organization?

Faith Clarke (43:44):
Um, I do mean disability-specific or, or, uh, difference-specific organizations.

Genia Stephen (43:54):
Social services in some capacity.

Faith Clarke (43:55):
Yeah. And I find that because it’s hard to find the person to talk to that really knows. And, uh, lots of these organizations themselves have recruitment issues. And so the actual who knows it is, you know, step five and like, who has the time I don’t, I don’t have the time to, to be in that those ongoing conversations to then find out that they, there’s a values mismatch. And that ended up in conversations trying to help people understand something and then just realize, Oh, you can’t understand because there’s a values mismatch. And so now I’m just, you know, if, if we’re not kind of coming from the same place, it won’t make a difference anyway. And I don’t really have the time to find that out. Um, but there are lots of parents who know this stuff already through hard experiences like mine.

Faith Clarke (44:47):
And so it’s easier to kind of say, okay, who’s who’s, who knows who’s doing it locally. And then the other thing too, is that a lot of organizations, when I hear about an organization, that’s run by a parent I lean in. So then if the parents has dealt with some of the stuff that I’ve dealt with, and then therefore they’re creating a solution, I move into that a lot faster. And so that could be sports. There’s lots of sports organizations now that have, are run by parents of kids with various levels of disabilities, trying to, both for physical fitness and for community engagement. And so I’m like, that’s the place I would be.

Genia Stephen (45:29):
Um, so when you, um, I know I’m bouncing around all over the sort of, you know, all over this process, but when you post in a generic place, do you then just sort of, do you have a process for kind of automating the response from the 80 people who respond who didn’t even read the ad?

Faith Clarke (46:02):
You said the 80 people, I was like, that’s good. Um, so the ad has requirements, usually. I’m, it depends on how much I’m expecting, what kind of response I’m expecting. Um, so in this past round of recruitment, I didn’t do this thing, but I’ve done this before, which is that I have, so send me A, B, C, so then if they didn’t read the ads and they didn’t, they’re not sending it to me, it just doesn’t happen. Um, I, it just, that’s the step one elimination or a friend of mine did this. He said, send a cover letter that says, and then, you know, 15 of them have cover letters, which is fine. So then you have the other 45 that if your 15 didn’t work, you can go back and say, did you mean to not send the cover letter? So I don’t automate these processes. I do want to lean into this gut feeling when I pull an application up. Yes, no. And I just trust that. Yes, no, no, yes, no, no. And then I go through that to say these people, um, did they follow what I asked? So they have, they sent me the things I asked. Why did they respond in the way I asked for it? And then, yes. Okay.

Genia Stephen (47:09):
Thank you so much for joining Faith and I today. I really, really appreciated her candor and insight around building a home staff support team that won’t drive you or your child crazy, and, actually, “Building a Home Staff Team that Won’t Drive You or Your Child Crazy” is the name of the webinar that she’s offering for us on December 9th. Um, you can register for that by going to And I really hope you’ll share this information with other people because you know, you and I are not the only ones who struggle with this. So please share the link to register with those that, you know. I will see you, I hope, same time, same place next week. Take care.

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Genia Stephen
Genia Stephen

Sister, mother, midwife, writer, speaker and perpetually curious. Dedicated to bringing you the voices, ideas and conversations of world class mentors and thought leaders in the field of disability.