A Message from Executive Director John Stauffer to the Families We Serve, Friends, and Supporters of Helping Hands Respite Care
Some of you may be aware that Helping Hands Respite Care has recently issued a report on our progress over the past year. This report was presented at our recent Annual Fund Raising Breakfast. The report is called Rising to Challenges and is available to be picked up at our Administrative Offices and will be available for distribution at any of our upcoming events. The essence of the report includes descriptions of challenges and opportunities we identified last year and how we responded to them; and then goes on to describe current and on-going challenges especially those related to our ability to deliver continuity of care by creating a competitive wage strategy for our direct care workers. It also quantifies and forecasts some new challenges rising.
These challenges and opportunities reflect both the conditions in our own marketplace and the needs that our families (and some families we haven’t met yet) have for enhanced or different levels of care. We are aware that some families and supporters might wonder why we would pursue new opportunities when we cannot fill all of the available direct care positions. This is a valid question, but from my perspective we simply cannot afford to ignore needs for direct care and the respite it delivers to families. In marketing vernacular we are not creating new markets, we are meeting an existing market need.
The clarification and promise that I want all of the families we serve to know is that our mission to solve the wage/employee and continuity of care challenge for families has not wavered, but it is a problem which is bigger than just one agency. We will continue to think about and respond to that challenge with a creative spirit and a hopeful demeanor that there will also be broad solutions coming from federal and state actions. That being said, I want these families to know that as we pursue some new opportunities, such as the one described in the May newsletter by Jeff Nunham, our absolute commitment is to NOT do anything to take care workers away from existing homes/families.
Recently I attended a meeting at Tri County Office on Aging where the Michigan office of the Public Health Institute presented a report on the results of a survey by the Partnership for Fair Caregiver Wages. (a scanned copy of the report can be found here) I have to confess that I was a bit shocked to learn about this organization and the work that it does. And I mean shocked in a good way – it was such a confirmation to know that our little nonprofit is not alone in the battle to attract and retain quality employees as direct care workers. For a few years MPHI has been leading the charge to gather data and advocate for some short-term and long-term changes in the broad and growing industry of businesses who have chosen to do the important work of caring for our most vulnerable citizens in Michigan, those with disabilities who need daily support and care.
The report describes the unintended impact of the increasing minimum wage. The direct care support market is not keeping pace with the minimum wage increases and a consequence to this labor market is that the direct care workers taking on the very challenging work of care are not attracted to this work because there are less difficult and better paying jobs in the retail and food service sectors. The report goes on to describe the high turn-over rates and increasing number of unfilled direct care worker positions has reached crisis level proportions.
My pledge to you is to keep you posted on any new developments coming from MPHI and the Michigan legislature on these important issues. There may be a time when you may be called on to make your voice heard. Until then, I am honored to serve all of the families who come our way at Helping Hands Respite Care, and to continue to provide leadership for the Michigan Adult Day Services Association (MADSA); and to work hard every day to maintain our commitment to Care for Those Caring for Others.
Helping Hands Respite Care
President of Board of Directors
Michigan Adult Day Services Association