Anyone who has worked as an intervenor knows that the position brings with it A LOT of responsibility. You are tasked with being another human being’s eyes and ears; you are the one that must bring the world to them and ensure they are getting the full experience of everything that is going on around them; you are the one making sure that when you are acting as their intervenor they are experiencing life the way they deserve to. The role of the intervenor is a hefty one and the pressure is immense when you realize that this person is counting on you for all of these things that they could never fully experience on their own. Intervenor services however do not stop with the consumer. Believe it or not, there can be added pressures that come with the role, specifically when you are working with an individual who is deafblind that lives in a family environment. One thing you can almost be certain of is that each member of the family is going to have a different opinion or feeling on how the individual’s intervenor services should look and they will most likely all have a different understanding of what exactly intervenor services are. This can make the role of the intervenor even more challenging. You not only have to balance what you know of your role as intervenor but also the policies and procedures of your organization as well as the wishes of the family. It can be a real balancing act and for some can be very overwhelming and in some cases stressful. So what is the best way to deal with this added pressure? There are a few things to keep in mind when providing intervenor services in a family home environment.
- Families may never have a complete understanding of what intervenor services are and that is OK. The family did not go to school to become an intervenor and they are not going to have the same training as you. You can try to lead by example and teach the family as you work what true intervenor services are but at the end of the day you are the intervenor, not the family and they will most likely have different priorities or ideas for their child or family member. The challenge becomes finding a balance between the priorities of the family and the mission, vision and values of the organization you work for. Your direct supervisor is a great resource to help you find this balance and work with the family towards a common goal of having the individual you support live a rich and meaningful life.
- Doing with, not for (the intervenor’s motto) might end when your shift ends, but let’s face it -- the individual you worked with is someone’s child or sibling and the family members will want to do things for them that don’t necessarily gel with how we operate as intervenors. Again, this is OK! Cut the family some slack and recognize that they are not intervenors; they are loving family members who want the best for their loved one and as such their instincts might throw intervenor techniques out the window. It does not mean that what you work on with the individual does not matter. Keep in mind the relationship between the family member and the deafblind person is different and serves a different purpose. Parents just want to be parents and instinct is to help.
- Communication is key! Any family will appreciate you keeping the lines of communication with them open at all times. They will expect that you will be honest with them about the good, the bad and the ugly. It is just as important to share the many successes you have with the person you support as it is the challenges you are facing. The family may be a great resource to you in working through some of the challenges and helping you to brainstorm ideas that have been successful for them in difficult times. Keep in mind that the family is a valuable member of the team as a whole; they have spent more time with their child than anyone and could have valuable insights that will help you be more successful in the intervenor services you provide to their child. Do not be afraid to ask them questions and seek their support.
- Having a solid understanding of whom you report to and take direction from is important. It is a common misconception that because you are working in the home of the family they are your employer and that you take direction from them. This is not always the case. If you are employed by an agency to work in the family home then the agency is considered your employer. In this situation you are expected to follow the policies and procedures of the organization. There may be situations where this needs to be clarified with the family and explained to them what the expectations are of you are as the employee of the organization. It is the responsibility of your supervisor to ensure you have a clear understanding of whom you report to and whom you are expected to take direction from. That being said, you are working in a person’s home and it is only reasonable that they will have house rules that you are asked to follow. It is crucial that you respect and follow these rules. If there is anything you are being asked to do or follow that you have questions about you can address it with your supervisor for clarification. Some intervenors may be employed directly by the family to work in the home. In this case, the family would be your direct supervisor and you would, of course, be expected to follow the directions given by them. Before you start working be sure to know whom you are responsible to report to and do not be afraid to seek clarification if you are unsure.
It is important to keep in mind that working in a family home not only impacts you as the intervenor but also poses various challenges for the family for overcome; they will have to get used to having an intervenor in their home on a daily basis.
“Our family will never be able to have complete privacy,” said one parent of an individual who is deafblind supported by Canadian Deafblind Association Ontario Chapter. “It is important for us to continue a normal life with our normal routines. This means that our son is as much a part of our everyday routine as possible and having an intervenor that can fit in and feel comfortable with the family is very important.”
The parent provided a number of examples of things that are meaningful to them when seeking the right intervenor to work in their home with their child.
“We enjoy social events and outings – being outgoing and outspoken, we respect each other’s privacy, we do not pry into each other’s decisions and choices, and being open and willing to approach each other when unforeseen situations arise.”
When asked to comment on some of the challenges the family may face by having an intervenor in the family home, the parent commented: “Building trust with the family and bonding relationships – this takes a long time.” The parent added that having a trusting relationship with the Intervenor means “giving them the responsibility to make life choices for our son in our absence which could include health choices that may be life-threatening.”
Of course, every family and their expectations will be different. This is why it is so crucial that you work hard to build the bond with not only the person who is deafblind that you support but the family as well. If you have a clear understanding of their expectations of you, you will better be able to support their child and contribute to the overall family dynamic which makes up your work environment.
We realize that being an intervenor brings great responsibility and having the added dynamic of working in the family home brings even greater pressure. Having the opportunity to work in a family environment can also be an extremely rewarding experience when you recognize how important you are to the family of the person you support and how much they count on you. If you are lucky enough to have a family welcome you into their home embrace it! Appreciate that besides your direct supervisor to support you, the family is also there to provide guidance and insight and oftentimes their advice will be invaluable. Once you master the art of providing intervenor services in the family home you will do great things and the feeling of knowing you made a difference in the family’s life even for only a few hours a day will make all of your hard work and dedication worth it!
Krysta Clark is a Manager of Intervenor Services with the Canadian Deafblind Association Ontario Chapter and supports a number of individuals who are deafblind and their families across the province of Ontario. Krysta has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Communications as well as a Post Grad Diploma in Workplace Wellness and Health Promotion. Krysta has held positions for various organizations including the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, McMaster University and Rexall Pharmacy where she had the opportunity to act as ghost writer for the vice-president of pharmacy services for a monthly pharmacy publication. Krysta began her career with CDBA Ontario as an Intervenor Services Coordinator in 2015 and has loved developing relationships with consumers supported by the agency. Krysta believes strongly in the intervenor motto “Do with not for” and loves the challenge of helping all individuals who are deafblind live rich and meaningful lives.