What to Look for in a Special Needs Care Provider 

Are you or your spouse preparing to return to work? Or maybe you need some time during the day to tackle the list of errands that are piling up. Whatever your reason, it is time to begin the hunt for a care provider. So now what? Do you seek in-home care or find a facility? The questions are many and may seem overwhelming at times.  

To help you navigate the process of finding a suitable fit for your child with special needs, we have compiled a list of questions and answers from Dawn Freudenberg, director of office planning innovation and quality, and Lisa Myers, service and support administrator supervisor, both with Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services in Cincinnati. 

What makes a quality care provider for a child with special needs?  

Freudenberg: We tend to think that care providers who can serve children with and without special needs are the best option. Inclusion provides benefits to all children. Care providers who can adapt their style and approach to ensure inclusion as well as meet the needs of the children are ideal.  

Myers: A quality care provider should encourage growth in your child. They should recognize limitations and ensure safety, while also allowing your child to take risks in order to learn. Their role is not only to meet basic needs, but to nurture the potential within each child to meet their own needs later in life. This is true for any child, but can be overlooked for children with disabilities. 

What kinds of questions should a parent ask?  

Myers: Know the specific needs of your child and ask questions related to the caregiver’s ability to meet those needs. Just because a provider has been successful for one child with disabilities doesn’t mean that they are equipped to meet the needs of every child. 

Why is it important to do your homework before choosing a facility?  

Myers: Choosing a care provider for your child is not easy! But if you do your homework, hopefully you will find that a change is not necessary in the future. Transitions for any child are not easy, and children with disabilities may have a harder time understanding changes and communicating how they feel about the change. If you find that you need to change from one care provider to another, enlist the help of both providers in sharing information with your child about the change using pictures, social stories and visits to ease the transition. 

What are some red flags parents should be aware of?  

Freudenberg: Some red flags you will want to be on the lookout for are high turnover, an inability to articulate their systems for background checks and children in the facility who are isolated or unhappy when you visit.  

Myers: Look for settings where children with and without disabilities are integrated. Children learn from one another, so finding a child isolated would be a concern. 

Any other recommendations?  

Freudenberg: I think parents need to see themselves as active quality assurance people. The best providers welcome unannounced drop-in visits by parents who are involved and supportive of the care. 

Myers: If you have concerns, talk about them as quickly as possible! Open communication is critical to a healthy relationship between a parent and a paid caregiver. And remember to recognize the good that you see them doing with your child, as well. Everyone needs encouragement as we care for children. 

We all want what is best for our children, and the needs of each child and family can vary greatly from one to the next. Ask questions, do your homework, keep your eyes open for red flags, talk about any concerns you may have and most importantly, don’t forget to trust your gut! You know your child better than anyone, and that knowledge goes a long way.  

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