Being a great care professional requires a balance of professional skill with personal empathy and flexibility. We are always touched as we read Host Family submissions for our annual Care Professional of the Year award. We encourage you to read and be inspired on how an Apex Social care professional can make a difference for your family, as Pre-School & Kindergarten Teacher Lisa B. (26, Germany, Aliceschule Giessen) did for Aura B. and her family:
I remember picking Lisa up from the airport. She was quiet, shy and very sweet. We were all excited for her arrival. I knew she was an OT and an artist, and based off instincts in the interview process, I felt like she would grow here with our family and be a wonderful care professional for our boys. But what I didn’t know was how this shy young woman would grow into a confident woman. I didn’t know she would be the most loyal, dedicated care professional we’ve ever had. And I didn’t know the myriad of ways we would all change and evolve together, through hardship and triumph, and the deep lasting imprint she would leave on all of us.
My family was in a time of transition when Lisa arrived. We have two sons, Jax, who is non-speaking Autistic and Baxter who is neurotypical, and their Dad and I are separated. Lisa was a wonderful stable source for the boys in both homes. She was respectful and caring in a difficult time for all of us. Her ability to make the transition to each home smoother, especially for our Autistic son, Jax, was of immense importance to the well being of our kids.
I believe with an agency like Apex Social Family Services your odds of finding an experienced, professional care professional, that is in this for all the right reasons are very high. Lisa was exemplary with her ability to work cohesively with the therapists on Jax’s team, our Autistic son. She was open to gaining new skills, learning the strategies that we implement here, while also collaborating and bringing her own insights to Jax’s team. Jax has significant sensory needs that are varied and complex. He can get overwhelmed and often this coping leads to self injury. She early on discovered that a constant tapping rhythm helped Jax to regulate himself. This tapping would calm and soothe him when he felt overwhelmed and greatly helped decrease his self injury. She would tap on his body, in a consistent pattern and it would soothe him. It is a sensory tool that he now can use independently, tapping his own rhythm often to himself on his chest or a table, etc. Additionally he has since grown this to tapping musical rhythms along with humming, so he is singing to himself and creating music. It has become an artistic expression! This is life changing for him.
It was a relief how calm Lisa was when Jax would dis-regulate and descend into self-injury. His self injury at the time could be extreme and heart wrenching to feel helpless in helping to protect him. She would always be there for him and due to her prior experience, was unphased by his behaviors and purely focused on helping him. I cannot understate how helpful it was to have someone I could trust with Jax, to know that now matter what, she would do the right thing, treat him with care and keep him safe. This helped me be able to also give the proper care and attention our other son, Baxter deserved. She also supported me, being so compassionate and understanding to my feelings as his Mama.
Lisa also figured out, right at the very beginning, a beautiful way for Jax to connect to people. She did it naturally, just by wanting to connect with him, without even realizing how it would impact him so positively. During play, she wanted to show him affection so she reached out and touched his nose sweetly with her finger. This little gesture he latched onto in a short time and soon he was also doing this warm gesture to her, without prompting, without modeling, without being physically taught. This then became a new way he learned to connect with people he cared about, with a gentle touch, light to the nose or cheek. We all were the recipient of this sweet moment and I adored this! Jax’s motor planning is complex, and for him to have a natural way to connect with others, that was socially acceptable, in which he could learn to modulate what was soft or hard touch, was amazing. He could learn to control his body and feel confident with this sweet gesture. What a gift she gave him, and all of us!
Her instincts at reading Jax were incredible. She was able to soothe him when no one else could. But her relationship with Baxter was no less important. It started slow and grew to be very deep over time. With all things with Lisa, it is the steady commitment and showing up that builds into meaning and value. They became very tight, and Baxter loved to create, be artistic and get crafty with Lisa. They shared a mutual passion for Lego's and crafts. But most important she learned to go out of her way to learn about his passions — specifically, and unusually, irrigation and sprinklers. I’m quite certain she left with more knowledge about sprinklers than she ever imagined she would. She would be excited to hear about all the knowledge he shared and would stay present and engaged with him. He leaned on her when he was sad, he laughed with her when he was silly. Baxter says, “She is a warm, kind person. She is loving. She played with me and helped me even when she didn’t have to. She made me feel loved. And I miss her.”
Personally, I learned so much from Lisa. I learned that it was okay for me to let go of control and to embrace that everyone has their own timing. I learned a different kind of patience. I learned to go slower with my boys, cherish little moments, and be still more. I am a doer and this is a huge lesson. I believe she learned from me to have confidence, assert herself more and to dare to try new things, even if it makes her nervous. To be comfortable with being uncomfortable as that is how we grow. She showed me how much she cared by the ways she contributed in trying to make my ultra busy life easier. She tried to help me find ways to have time for self care. I would find myself going to do something to then realize, she already had. We both evolved so much over the time together.
Lisa decided to stay with us for her full 2 year visa… and then the unexpected happened. It happened for all of us. The pandemic hit and all our lives changed. Jax’s therapists stopped coming, Baxter was in distance learning, the boys couldn’t go to their Dad’s for a long period of time... and, the care professional arriving to take over for Lisa was now not arriving. Lisa said she loved her years here, but she also missed her family and was ready to go back home. Yet as she watched our lives shift and how challenging this chaos all was, she leaped in to help and offered to stay until another care professional could arrive. She extended an extra 6 months. It was a miracle. I have no idea how I would’ve managed without her. She was the constant, the stable, our solid rock in an ever changing, always changing time. During this time I actually saw Lisa grow the most — she learned to lead, to teach and be confident.
A few months later we learned we could get a new care professional and quickly matched, telling Lisa she could at last be reunited to her family in Germany, who were also in the throes of the pandemic. A month before arrival, visa’s changed, and now, this new care professional could not arrive and we didn’t know when that would change. Again, again! I couldn’t bear to ask Lisa to stay. I knew she missed her family. Yet, again…again! She offered to stay a bit longer, in the hopes we could secure local help or the visa’s changed. Tremendously, we also had to move at this time, and she was solid in this time of moving. Although all this sounds intense, and it was, we actually all have laughter and adventures and truly wonderful moments... because of the strong bond we had grown together to weather these types of storms life throws at you. Finally, we had moved, therapists started returning to the home, a new care professional was arriving, and it was time to say goodbye to our dear, dear Lisa.
My family is one to always get very attached to our care professionals. We pride ourselves on staying connected to them and building our international family. Needless to say, when it’s time to say goodbye, it's never easy, but always expected. Yet with Lisa, I have never, ever had an airport drop off like that one. We were all bawling. It was never so apparent how much we all loved one another and how much she would be missed. I had never seen my boys so emotional for a care professional leaving. We felt the difference the moment we drove off in the car. The energy change. Lisa was like a harmony that had been played quietly in our home for years and suddenly that humm was gone, but never to be forgotten.
My family’s experience with Lisa epitomizes what is best in the ultimate care professional/host family relationship. She brought her professional skills and collaborated well with the professionals she worked with here. We all learned together and shared incredible, never to be forgotten experiences. She travelled with us, laughed with us, cried with us. She left us changed for the better and she changed for the better. We are truly a family.
We are so grateful for Lisa. She is one of the most caring people I know. She is kind, considerate, thoughtful. She respected all of us, making everyone feel valued. It is with unequivocal passion that we nominate our incredible care professional, Lisa for Care Professional of the Year. I think actually, not to slight those to come to our family in the future, but maybe we should just say of the decade! We feel gratitude for the serendipity that led us all together and to Apex Social Family Services for making this match happen. What an amazing team! Truly a testament to the value of the care professional cultural exchange!