Research suggests that almost half of those who abuse people with disabilities are in positions that are responsible for their care, such as personal care attendants, transportation providers, and occupational therapists. Organizations that serve people with disabilities, therefore, may employ some of the people responsible for this abuse. These organizations can play a role in stopping them from abusing and decreasing the chances they will abuse again.
Steps You Can Take
Perform background checks.
Make it your policy to run a routine background check before you hire an applicant. Verify information on resumes, look for criminal convictions (to the extent allowed in your state), and check driving records.
Use special care in the hiring and retention of workers who will have direct contact with individuals with disabilities.
Certain jobs provide direct access to people with disabilities and require careful screening. Positions such as personal care attendants, bus and van drivers, group home staff, and special education teachers require employers to not only carefully screen, but to ensure that they provide ongoing training, support, and regular oversight.
Establish policies that discourage abuse by employees.
Organizations can create a safer environment for the people it serves by creating policies that deter abuse by employees. Consider adopting a “zero-tolerance” policy within your organization that outlines the responsibility of staff to report any suspected abuse by staff, your commitment to supporting the investigation of all allegations of abuse, and the consequences employees will face for abusing people served by your organization.
Clearly articulate expectations around intimate care provision.
Because abuse often happens in the context of the provision of personal care, it is important to establish clear expectations about how intimate care services are delivered. These expectations should emphasize privacy, dignity, choice, and safety.
Root out problem employees immediately.
If you learn of any suspected abuse by an employee, you must take immediate action. It is not enough to simply terminate the employee, as they could simply find work elsewhere. The incident should be reported to authorities and the employee’s file should also be documented accordingly.
Resources You Can Use
- Disability Equality Wheel. Developed by the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Equality Wheel illustrates power and control dynamics between people with disabilities and their caregivers.
- Running Background Checks and Employee Screening. Basic information on running background checks on potential employees can be found on the Nolo website. For more in-depth information, AARP developed Safe at Home? a guide for developing effective background checks and other screening policies for home care workers, and the American Bar Association created the Guidelines for the Screening of Persons Working with Children, the Elderly, and Individuals with Disabilities in Need of Support.
- Conducting Internal Investigations of Caregiver Misconduct Training. Provided by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, this webcast series is designed for persons responsible for investigating allegations of caregiver misconduct.
- Caregiver Training on Abuse and Neglect Prevention. A collection of training materials, including a video series, covering the topics of abuse, neglect, and misappropriation of property designed for caregivers and managers.
- World Institute on Disability. Provides a collection of resources including videos and the Curriculum on Abuse Prevention (CAPE) which contains information on preventing abuse by anyone in a helping role.