by Stacy Dunn and Ethan Paquet
Queens County Residential Services Inc. (QCRS Inc.) is a not-for-profit organization that has been in operation for 45 years, delivering a range of programs and services to adults with intellectual and physical disabilities.
QCRS Inc. owns 15 group homes, runs a day program, and employs about 180 staff, providing support and services to about 100 clients.
Over the past several years, they have added three small options homes and took over the operation of Life Bridge, a fully equipped housing complex with up to seven double occupancy units providing supervised support for high functioning adults with intellectual disabilities.
In the last year, they have also opened a new six-bed group home as well as three apartment units.
The program’s focus is to enrich the lives of clients, providing person-centered plans that promote self-esteem, independence, and well-being.
“Working with adults with a disability is a very rewarding experience and for most people it is a calling rather than just a job,” says Janessa Culleton, HR/Organizational Support. “To make a difference in someone’s life is a special thing.”
- Group homes
- Small options homes
- Day programs
- Associate family program
- Community housing
- Employment supports
- Person-centered planning
- Respite care
Some staff titles
- Community Living Worker
- Day Program Worker
“QCRS Inc. continues to grow and develop to respond to the growing needs of the community,” says Janessa.
Janessa worked as a Community Support Worker in the organization for three years prior to her current role. She has a degree in psychology. “I didn’t have much on-the-job experience, but I do have family friends with autism, and peers with disabilities who I assisted while at university. That experience was enough for me to get my foot in the door.”
Education and training needed
Most staff graduated from a Human Services, Resident Care Worker, Youth Worker, or other comparable program. Those who have not completed college may still be considered for casual relief work and can gain very valuable experience in the system. They also need previous volunteer experience or on-the-job training related to helping people, especially persons with disabilities.
Hiring needs and difficult jobs to fill
Like many other workplaces, hiring staff has become challenging. At the same time, it opens opportunities for those looking to work and grow in a very stimulating and interesting field.
“We currently require candidates for a number of positions, and we have many openings for Casual Relief Workers. These workers are extremely valuable, filling in when other staff are sick and covering for permanent staff’s much-needed vacation time.
“We are having difficulty finding qualified candidates to fill all the positions,” she says. “We get a lot of applications, but I am not seeing a lot of education or work experience relevant to the helping profession.
“In addition, casual employees often take on more than one job in order to supplement their regular income. This means their schedules are very limited when it comes to being available for shifts, especially when they are called at the last minute.”
Pay, benefits, and training
There is flexibility in working at QCRS. Depending on your lifestyle or interest, you can work regular day hours Monday to Friday, or you can work shifts in residential homes with full-time hours available.
Casual employees start out at $18/hour with four percent vacation pay. “There is a step-increase after working one year in service, when you will then become a Step 2 Casual employee. These step-increases are often an incentive to get your foot in the door, and it is the reason why some staff have stayed 20-plus years.”
Benefits include reduced annual health membership and ongoing training opportunities.
“We are unionized, so once you have a permanent position, you will have perks and a union in place to support you. Permanent staff receive a pension and medical benefits as well.”
QCRS Inc. supports continual training by reimbursing staff for training outside the organization that is relevant to their work. Also, trainers visit the organization to give courses on mental health, First Aid upgrading, transfer lift and repositioning of clients, and non-violent crisis intervention. They are always looking for new professional development opportunities for staff.
Job placement opportunities
They offer practicums for college students. In fall 2021, QCRS Inc. had nine placements at its various homes. “Your six-week on-the-job training here is the best job interview you will ever have. Nine times out of 10 those people will stay on with us.”
Janessa says she does a lot of informational interviews with job-seeking clients from SkillsPEI and participants of programs such as Career Bridges. “We did offer volunteer opportunities, but COVID-19 put a pause on that. We hope to resume the call for volunteers in the future.”
The homes operate 24/7, and shifts could be eight hours, 12 hours, 20 hours, or 24 hours long. Staff who work overnight in a group home are paid the sleepover rate for some of their shift. “If the clients are asleep, we have rooms for the staff to sleep. We pay a standby rate of $30.78/hr for a four-hour period overnight.”
Janessa says work hours for QCRS Inc. staff are flexible. “If you work 40 hours a week and take a 24-hour shift, you could potentially work two days and have the rest of the week off. Our student employees seem to like working overnights so they can fit in their schooling.”
Permanent positions are advertised internally within the organization while the Casual Relief Worker position is advertised externally. Janessa says there are many ways to apply.
“New and ongoing job openings are listed on our Facebook page, as well as Indeed and the PEI Job Bank. You could send your resumé to firstname.lastname@example.org and those looking to apply can also contact me directly.”
Alternatively, potential candidates can drop off resumés in person at the QCRS Inc. administrative offices at 39 Maypoint Road in Charlottetown.
“Sometimes, that initial face-to-face meeting can give us an idea of whether someone would be a good fit for our organization or not. By coming over to say ‘Hi, I’m interested in a position here’ you will stand out.”
Job seekers must show on their application that they have previous volunteer experience or on-the-job training related to helping people, especially persons with disabilities.
“It’s important that cover letters are included so we see more details of your experience related to the position. It doesn’t matter how small or far back the information is. It makes you stand out and get your foot in the door.”
Candidates are interviewed by Janessa and a program manager. “When I read the person’s resumé and cover letter, I get a sense of what program they may be best suited for and I ask the manager of that program what they think.”
Terms of initial employment
Most start out as Casual Relief Workers and then advance to temporary or permanent roles.
There is a standard three-month probation period as most workplaces have. “That period can be extended for new staff who want more training,” Janessa says.
“If you have the right personality and you are willing to learn and be there for people, there is an opportunity here for you. It’s the kind of job where you need to be ready for anything and think quick on your feet, but the relationships and rewards outweigh any stressors that may come with the job.”