Wichita mom calls on state to raise pay for some caregivers

Published: Dec. 30, 2021 at 10:54 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Butler County mother Sarah Mace knows the struggles of the labor shortage. Since the end of August, she’s sought someone who can supervise her eighth-grade son. But the position only pays $10 per hour. As much as Mace would like the flexibility to pay more, she can’t because the state sets that wage.

“We need to be creative because something needs to change and something needs to change rapidly,” she said.

Mace has interviewed plenty of people.

“They may really want to come and work for us because people have told me that, but when they’re looking at $13.50 an hour versus $10, there’s no real question about which one they would choose,” Mace said.

But it’s been months since her family has been able to find someone to take the job to provide in-home supervision for her son, Luke. Luke has intellectual and developmental disabilities including autism and epilepsy.

“My son qualifies for a certain number of hours where an individual can come into our home and help us supervise him to make sure he, along with the rest of our children are safe because they’re supervising him and we’re able to supervise our other children,” she said.

“Have a lot of behavioral issues, medical issues, things like that,” Mace said. “So as a parent, you really want someone who knows how to be able to respond safely when those challenges arise.”

Mace said in 2019, Luke was put on the Intellectual and Developmental Disability or I/DD waiver. For a certain number of hours the state pays for a caregiver to meet some of his needs, something that’s crucial when Luke comes home from school and Mace and her husband are still at work.

“Wage was $10 an hour, and while that wasn’t a significant amount of money, it was well above minimum wage, so we didn’t struggle nearly as much to find someone,” she said.

A program is through the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services. While wages have gone up most places, they haven’t here.

“The State of Kansas, the legislature is the only (one) who can raise the wages for the different waivers,” Mace said.

She said this is a statewide issue for families and is connecting with other families in a similar position, and is hoping as a group, parents can get lawmakers to act.

“I would be willing to pay someone $20 an hour to watch my child if I believed that they would show up, that they would stay and that they had the skills,” Mace said.

For her, having someone who can consistently be there for children like her son leads to better outcomes and provides safety.

“That stability is... it is key to their survival,” Mace said.

She said someone they had hired for a long time left for a higher paying job at a fast-food restaurant. For now, they’re relying on family. When that doesn’t work, Mace and her husband leave their jobs early and as a result, are burning through paid time off.

“Really want our legislators in Topeka to see this for the critical issue that it is because this is not a Republican issue, this is not a Democrat issue, this is a human issue,” Mace said.

A special committee in the Kansas legislature is evaluating the IDD waiver, not just the issue of pay, but worker retention and the waitlist for services, which can be a seven-to-nine-year wait for Mace.

Following a meeting this fall, the committee is working on some recommendations.

Mace said, “Causing significant difficulty for my family and I know that other families are facing this issue as well.”

Copyright 2021 KWCH. All rights reserved.