What is a Family Home Provider?
October 28, 2014
Posted in: Uncategorized
Most people understand what foster homes are, but many people have never heard of a Family Home Provider. Family Home Providers welcome people with a developmental disability into their homes and into their families. When matched with a fitting candidate, becoming a Family Home Provider can be a remarkable opportunity to experience immense new joy in everyday life.
Laura Kerr was a proud support worker with the Victorian Order of Nurses providing care for people in need of personal support in their own homes. An injury at mid-life stopped Laura in her tracks and prevented her from being able to continue to care for people in the community. Following her injury Laura experienced a time of confusion and ‘self-pity’. As Laura was going emotionally downhill, she called a friend she knew worked for Community Living Parry Sound, thinking that volunteering might help.
Working together with Lori McPhaden, Manager of the Family Home Program, Laura realized that she and her husband Wayne would make an ideal family home for a woman in desperate need of a stable and skilled caregiver. Laura did not know about families that provide homes for people with a developmental disability. Family Home providers receive a monthly income, time off from providing care, and vacation time. For Laura finding out about what a home provider is and about Debbie, the woman she and her husband were to be matched with, was the perfect opportunity at the perfect time. Laura says “I am kicking my butt that I didn’t know about Family Home Providers sooner; all those years I went out to other people’s homes to look after them”.
Debbie has complex needs that are not difficult to manage for an experienced support worker with a need for purpose in her life. The match between Debbie and the Kerrs was made quickly, with great care. Debbie’s prior part-time caregiver was tragically killed in a car accident so her home and stability were suddenly shaken. When Laura appeared at CLPS, Debbie was in desperate need of a home. Community Living Parry Sound guided Debbie into Laura and Wayne’s home where she has lived and thrived in a part time Homesharer situation for the past 2.5 years. Laura says the relationship she has with Debbie is “special”. She says that “when Debbie looks at me with those eyes she still melts me”.
Speaking with Laura, who wears her heart on her sleeve, it is not difficult to see why she is a wonderful home provider but there is more to her story. When Laura was 14 she had a special Uncle Pete. Pete had autism and was known for his love of biking. Peter told Laura he was going to win her a 10-speed bicycle in a bike race. He entered the race and was heartbreakingly hit and killed by a truck during the race. Laura does not forget his life and maybe it explains in part why Laura is so capable of unconditionally giving to others.
In the summer of 2013 Laura was asked if she would be in a position to offer her home to another woman being supported by CLPS. The answer was a definite yes and again the process of transitioning Susan from her existing living situation to the Kerr’s home was carefully and artfully handled by all.
Susan was used to being moved around and has lived in many different kinds of situations. She has survived difficult life situations that have left her with uncommon fears and anxieties that Wayne, Laura’s kind and gentle husband, in particular needed to respect. Susan has become a valued member of the Kerr family and they now call her “the dog whisperer” as she has an uncanny ability to calm down and look after Tanner and Bayley,the family dogs. Laura and Susan get along amazingly well and when I asked Laura to describe her relationship with Susan she said it is like having a “sister”. The change in Susan since her arrival at the Kerr home has been by all accounts remarkable. Susan feels empowered, safe and free to be herself. She has her own room in the house and her own responsibilities in the family. This summer Wayne taught Susan how to drive a motor boat and she travels with the family wherever they go.
The Kerr family is beginning to plan for their retirement years. Laura tells me that the plan to become future snowbirds includes all members of the Kerr household. Laura and Wayne love Arizona and this year will rent a motorhome to drive south with Susan and Laura’s dad on an adventure to the glorious Arizona heat. If this trip were filmed, my bet is that it would be funnier than a National Lampoon Vacation 2 sequel and I hope they hook up a GoPro camera to share their fun with others. I also hope their experience as Family Home Providers inspires others to inquire about this opportunity to provide a home for others in need of family support.