Great support staff!

Come Train with the S.T.A.R.S: Matching the best candidates to our children
[S.T.A.R.S: Seeking Talented And Resourceful Supporting-actors]
URL for our training programme:

New Zealand families with disabled children have joined efforts to launch a new initiative addressing the difficulty to find great staff to support people with high and complex needs. To bypass the difficulties created by a traditional hiring and training process, the families will come together for 5 consecutive weekends to meet with a group of potential candidates. They run collaborative training and team building activities to give both candidates and families some real time common experience.

The programme was launched in New Zealand in Christchurch in April 2015 and will run again in August 2015. Watch a short video clip where some of these parents explain their idea:

Training with the S.T.A.R.S
As parents of children with complex needs, we are unanimous: finding, training and retaining great staff to support our children living a life that is exciting and meaningful is an ongoing challenge. In order to get different results, we need a different approach!

We embrace the new choice and self-determination offered by the current personalisation movement to pilot for the first time in New Zealand a creative recruiting model. Starting from our vision that our children star in the movies of their lives, we choose to redesign a recruiting process into an ongoing collaborative learning and matching process to launch into a search for unique supporting actors to help our stars shine!

The training involves staging meaningful opportunities for people to connect: families and potential staff introduce each other and over time get acquainted to each other’s needs. These encounters allow us to break through the limitations of traditional work interviews, and ultimately choose each other on a more authentic and more sustainable basis. Over these 5 sessions, we will also learn together about the history of the disability sector, person-centered thinking, community participation and contribution, understanding the disability 'system' and team building when working with a family. 

S.T.A.R.S will endeavour to discover the unique talents of the supporting-actors with the aim of matching them with a compatible Star. We are open to a range of possible outcomes and candidates may uncover new aspirations or roles within the disability sector. The UK experience has shown that a S.T.A.R.S. concept can open up the imagination and build confidence amongst all actors and result in a range of capacity building outcomes for the whole disability sector. For instance we will invite service providers to participate in some of our sessions, and hope that they use the opportunity to carry on staff training whenever appropriate as we feel that such partnership will benefit all.

Families will:
  • Grow stronger together and expand our choices of staff
  • Learn to identify what qualities we are looking for in staff
  • Experience the perseveration of candidates over time – which is impossible to do in a traditional short work interview
  • Embrace the citizen leadership model – through the knowledge embedded in stories of change
  • Keep the energy alive after the course is finished
Candidates will:
  • Learn about the history of the disability sector, build practical skills such as information finding and make connections with people in the community
  • Participate in Q & A roundtables to cover a wide range of questions beyond those from interview situations to better understand the nature of the work
  • Be supported to identify attitude, skills, gifts and qualities to create a portfolio
  • Train leading up to a graduation session hosted by the candidates
About us: A parent team combining lived experience and formal training

Irene Andrell and her husband Kerry have lived experience parenting 4 beautiful daughters. The youngest two are aged 19 and 21, live with complex very high needs and are both non-verbal. Irene has worked in the disability sector paid and voluntary throughout the years ever since her daughters were born with disabilities.  In the past, these roles have included Parent to Parent Co-ordinator Christchurch and Co-founder of a not for profit called Bright'uns Sunshine Holiday Club Inc. which delivered every school holidays a fun filled programme for disabled children aged 5 to 14 years.  This ran successfully for 5 years then it was decided to wind down as Irene wanted to pursue other interests and her daughters’ needs changed as well. Current staff of the Bright'uns wanted to carry it on so they relaunched with a new name All Stars Kids Club and they continue to provide a unique school holiday experience to date.

Irene is currently a Family Facilitator working alongside Enabling Good Lives with other Family Facilitators to help empower families navigating the current changes within the disability sector. She is also Co-Coordinator of Rainbow Faith and Light Christchurch this is part of a worldwide organisation, which offers friendship and community to disabled members.

Dr. Annick Janson trained as a Clinical Psychologist with a specialisation in Disability. She was the inaugural Research Director at the New Zealand Leadership Institute, at the University of Auckland and subsequently the Microsoft NZ, Partners in Learning Research Director. She has been facilitating Consumer Leadership Development programmes and carrying research in this field for the past decade. Annick and husband Rob have lived experience bringing up 3 talented children – the youngest is an emerging artist ( who also lives with Asperger Syndrome and is finalist this year in the Artistic Achievement category of the Attitude Awards. Yaniv is a passionate advocate for disabled artists.

Dr. Janson was awarded a PhD by the Waikato Management School for her work on Virtual Leadership Storytelling and a Positive Psychology Award at the International Congress of Positive Psychology, Washington D.C. 2006 for her leadership formative experiences research. She served on a number of relevant boards, including the Waikato DHB Community Public Health Advisory Committee and is the secretary of the Fast Track Inclusion Trust. She will lead our research and evaluation programme based on the methodology she developed during 2013 SPARK-NZ fellowship with Te Pou using storytelling for families to have direct input into the disability sector.

When I first heard parents of disabled children presenting the idea during my IIDL experience, I thought: Wow… this is different and exciting! This would make a difference to the New Zealand disability sector and expand on my Te Pou SPARK-NZ fellowship. During our group discussions at the host event, other participants encouraged me to bring the idea back home and set up meetings with their networks. I found that as soon as I mentioned the idea to other parents they got on board and formed a leading team to make it happen. At the same time, other organisations and people shared our enthusiasm and joined in to help us make it a success”, said Annick Janson.

More about the collective experience behind Come Train with the S.T.A.R.S. programme: our staffing options are limited. Whether we self-recruit or work with service-provider staff we feel a lack of control, of power and balance. Strangers come into our homes with little background knowledge of support workers. Many disempowering emotions often accompany this situation: feelings of being obligated to support workers, worried that if we complain, we may lose services or be treated unfairly, fear of certain situations such as personality clashes, personal grievances, confidentiality issues, stealing, inappropriate behaviours, cultural differences. Many of us even have felt obligated to fill in annual questionnaire positively even though we were unhappy with the service being provided. During a Manawanui-led Consumer Leadership Development session we decided to take action.

We are aware that as we become employers, we need to fill gaps such as balancing respectful boundaries and authority. Some of us have had such negative past experiences that we have been driven to reject offers of support all together or have been feeling isolated, exhausted, depressed and lacking in confidence and trust.

This project is a collaboration between families and associated supportive organisations: Manawanui InCharge, Te Pou and Enabling Good Lives. Nicky Wagner (MP for Christchurch Central and new Minister for Disability Issues) is supportive and we'll work together to achieve common aims: better outcomes for disabled people!

We are empowered to create positive change based on the Let’s Get Real FrameworkSee an interview with Caroline Tomlinson who successfully launched the idea in the UK and more details on how the idea was developed in NZ from a 2014 IIDL host experience. An introductory presentation by a local parent-led initiative developed into an invitation to a whole day parent colloquium with meetings with a wide section of the organisation and target audience that presented clear unique outcomes and very happy families. Dr Janson said: “This initiative is a direct outcome of my participation in the last IIDL Conference and of a current Consumer Leadership Development programme led by Manawanui. I'd also like to credit SPARK-NZ who guided me to develop the methodology we will be using to document the project.”
We researching the Social Entrepreneurship models that can help us achieve our vision:
  • Families leading social change by example and helping each other – intentionally
  • Participants who learn in real time right from the start
  • Evidence-based model to start with. Real-time research of the model and ongoing outcome evaluation. (i.e. built-in flexibility to adapt to emerging knowledge)
  • Sustainable over time through Social Entrepreneurship model: Collaborating with our UK colleagues, we have direct access to the Social Enterprise lessons they have learnt
  • Expanding into adjunct activities such as facilitating a model for staff to create their community of practice
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