Career of Love as a Professional Parent

Name: Alice Miller

Job Title:
Professional Parent

Boomer, NC


Years of Experience:
Relevant Experience: Clinical Medical Assistant
Education: Medial Assistant Training – Delaware Technical Wilkes County Community College – H R
Annual Salary: See PayScale’s Reseach Center for Similar Job Titles Salaries in the U.S .

Career of Love as a Professional Parent

Being a parent is sometimes a thank-less job.  It should be a profession.  But the official job title of Professional Parent focuses on children with a medical condition. These caring people come in as an “additional” parent and meets the special needs of their clients.  Alice Miller is one of those caring Professional Parents who can give you a deeper insight into this unique career.

As a professional parent, Alice does a lot for her client – from attending his medical appointments to making sure he keeps his room clean – and maintains detailed regular reports about them and her client’s behavior.  In her own words, she is a “cook, nurse, housekeeper, laundress, counselor, chauffeur, pharmacist and best friend.” But if you read her interview, you will see that she has a heart of gold. Alice loves her client and her career. She truly is a second mom to her patients. Love is essential in this career.

Job Description of a Professional Parent

Alice: As a professional parent, I help set goals for my client. I also see that my client works on these goals. I keep a running percentage of progress or digression on my client’s part to achieve his goals. I make all medical appointments and attend all them whether or not it is to see a medical doctor, dentist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor. I administer my client’s medicine. I am also responsible for ordering the medication and when it is administered chart it properly.

My client is mentally retarded so I help him find jobs, see that he gets there, and acts appropriately. I oversee all his meals which I cook and serve. Healthy snacks must be supplied, and a well balanced meal must be served. All medication must be counted at the end of each day. He also has daily chores which I list to prompt him to do what he is suppose to do. We do month fire drills and severe weather disaster drills. He attends a wood working class each week so he needs building supplies.  My client gets an hour of one-on-one time with me at least once a week.

I have several monthly reports. One is called “Client Input to the Home.” It covers things such as: meals, whether or not he attends church with the family, and outings we take during the month. It also reports if the client had any outstanding moments during the month, if they were good or bad, and how they were treated. I keep a daily log of all his activities during the month that covers things such as: attended work, went to the YMCA to work-out, went out with his one-on-one worker, whether or not he showered properly, if he kept the bathroom clean and organized, and if he keeps his room straight and clean. He must attempt to properly use his allowance each month – and I keeping a record of his spending. I also must keep up with all receipts and explain how his money is spent. There are so many reports. It could be easy to forget things like making monthly reports to his case manager and his QP.

PayScale: How did you begin your career as a professional parent?

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Alice: My son worked in a group home and he married a young lady that worked in another group home. There was an opportunity for them to move up here and become professional parents. They looked into two difference agencies that do this type of work. They found a client they seem to think would work out, but it didn’t. That client ended back in the mental hospital. Then they were offered another client that was not as high maintenance and it seemed to work out for both parties. However, they were going away and needed respite for their client.

I went by the agency and applied mostly to help my son out. I loved the work. As soon as the respite was over I applied for a full time job myself. That involved, background checks, many classes in CPR, first aid, medication management, state rules and regulations courses. The training is a never ending thing. There is always something new coming up by the state of agency and back to school we go. I love this work though you can get burned out and need your own respite care.

PayScale: What do you love about your career as a professional parent?

Alice: I love the smiles. I love seeing them have balanced meals and hear my client tell everyone that I am the best cook ever. When my client came to stay with me he could only come an hour at a time for the first week. The first day he only stayed the hour and jumped up and said he was ready to go. It worked up to staying all night and then staying all weekend and he did not go back to the group home after that weekend. I know he was a little bit homesick for his friends from the home, but now he had his own bedroom and bath, a huge closet to put his stuff in, and plenty of bureau drawers. He did not have to worry about anyone stealing his things. He is now able to buy things like watches or radios, movies or books, and know whenever he went back into that room that stuff would still be there. It makes me happy for him to know he is safe and secure and no one can hurt him now. He has made new friends, does new things, and smiles a lot. He needs a lot of “you are doing good buddy” and “that was a good job you just did!” It makes me happy and I love my job because I know he feels secure and knows I am always there for him. I like to hear him going through the house singing.

PayScale: What are the biggest challenges you face with your career as a Professional Parent?

Alice: My client is mildly retarded and has schizophrenic behaviors. Oftentimes, these people need a lot of encouragement. Because of this they will exaggerate beyond belief. All the men will tell you they have been in the military, though almost none of them have. They will exaggerate their education and the jobs that they have had. It is our job to help them sort out the truth without making themselves feel bad for themselves. They all need a lot of attention, too. But we all need to feel important – I do not care who you are. Some clients steal – they will admit they do. But then they’ll say, “I have not done that in over a year” when you know they are showing up with things they did not have money to buy. You must watch them very closely

PayScale: What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the field of professional parenting?

Alice: Love helping others is the first job requirement. Be proficient in writing reports because you have plenty to write about. Most people will say, “I love my job but hate all that paper work.” Well this is a job where everything you do is reported to a state agency. You need to be accurate.

Learn as much about the behavior of the mildly mentally retarded. Be willing to listen. Something that might not seem very important to you could seem like the end of the world to them. Above all else, you must love this job or it will not work out for you. I have seen many families come and go. They think, “That is easy. I can do that.” But it’s not quite so easy. You always think about what you should have asked before you start a job like this, but it all works out in the end if you just have that love and understanding for the human being. Be up on your first aid, CPR, and medications used for different psychotic disorders. And know your protocol: what you are allowed to do and what is off limits without first consulting the guardian or QP. You are a cook, nurse, housekeeper, laundress, counselor, chauffeur, pharmacist and best friend. Last of all, show them you care!

PayScale: What are one of the most amazing things that have happened in your career as a professional parent?

Alice: My present client is amazing in himself. He loves woodworking. He can tell you every kind of wood in the United States. He has built me several really nice peppermills and a really nice magazine rack. I would say woodworking is where he shines. He has written me several stories about family life on the farm. As amazing as it seems, they were well written, with the head line lead in, the body of the story, and an unsuspecting ending.

I think the greatest part is that when he came here, he was afraid of everyone. He had been abused, pushed from group home to group home. He even spent time in a nursing home which was very traumatic for him. Somewhere along the line, someone had put it in his head that women should not have jobs of any importance. Now my client feels good around strangers. He mingles well. This client never did have trouble telling a story. The only thing that we are working on right now is his belief that I can fix anything. I am the “great savor” and he does not need to be afraid of people doing something to him they should not. What a blessing this job is! Not only is my client happy and satisfied with their life, so am I! When we go out anywhere, people will ask me if he is my son. I like that. I will call him “son,” but it makes my children jealous. They think I am only their mom. But, there is enough of me to go around two or three times. I have a lot of extra love left over for all.

There have been real crazy times, there have been amazing times and interesting times. There have been times when my client has tried to play me by telling me the biggest story so I will let him do something he knows he should not do. It is all worth it. I would have loved to have found this job 20 years ago. My life would have been much fuller.

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