Hiring the best caregiver: Protecting children and adults

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Experts say when it comes to hiring the right person to care for your loved one there are several things you can do to minimize risk or abuse.

Dr. Carole Swiecicki is the Executive Director of the Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center, which serves families in Charleston and Berkeley Counties.

She said there are 17 other advocacy centers statewide to help South Carolina kids and families.

"Upsetting events can happen to children or vulnerable adults. But it's important we realize it does happen even if it's hard to see or hear about… We can't stop it if we don't know about it," she said. "If you can stop it from happening to one person, you might prevent it from happening to somebody else."

When it comes to hiring caregivers, her suggestions include:

-Ask tough questions: Interview multiple people, ask them for training records and look for someone with a lot of passion, patience and empathy.

-Check in Spontaneously: Whether it's with video cameras or popping by your home or the care center unannounced, let everyone know you are paying attention.

-Check Records: Request not only background checks, but also records from the DSS database. Ask any service or daycare for copies of these records.

-Trust your instincts: If you feel like something is different or wrong, follow-up and trust your instincts.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention month.

Dr. Swiecicki said children and adults with developmental delays disabilities are at a higher risk for abuse, especially if they are non-verbal.

She also points out that in-home care may not always be the best option.

"There are a few studies that have shown that one-on-one in-home care is actually a little bit higher risk for physical abuse particularly of young children," she said."Sometimes that's because when that caregiver gets frustrated by a child with behavior problems or is really difficult to soothe, they don't have another caregiver they can tag team with and say 'I'm gonna calm down, can you try something new, a different approach.' Whereas in group care settings they do have those options."

If a child or adult has special needs, it's even more important to find a caregiver with a high skill level and training in positive behavior strategies.

Dr. Swiecicki said with all of these actions, parents can minimize the chances of caregiver injury or abuse, but they can never bring the risk to zero.

Ultimately, she added, it's important for parents to listen to a child or vulnerable adult who expresses fear of a place or person.

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