Cindy: Creating a Career in Child Care


Cindy is a 25-year-old woman who always expressed interest in working with children. With the help of a job developer, a formal employment proposal was developed and presented to an employer, which outlined potential job responsibilities and how those tasks would meet a business need. Through effective and persistent job negotiations, Cindy was able to secure a position working as a day care assistant in a child-care center close to her home.

The job search

Cindy's rehabilitation counselor felt that she needed to gain work experience prior to searching for a paid position in child care. Cindy was able to gain that experience through the Work Experience Program (WEP) at Children's Hospital Boston, a program run by the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI). This program provides time-limited paid opportunities for individuals with disabilities to explore skills and interests by working in various departments throughout the hospital. Through the ICI's Work Experience Program, Cindy was able to work in the hospital day care center as a child-care assistant, assisting the head teachers in caring for the infants and toddlers while earning minimum wage.

While the hospital-based day care offered excellent experience, Cindy expressed an interest in working closer to home. Cindy began meeting weekly with a job developer from the ICI. During their meetings, the job developer assisted Cindy in creating a resume that emphasized her child-care experience and contained an objective of working with children. With the help of the job developer, Cindy submitted an application to a day care center a block away from her home in the hopes that they would be in need of an assistant. The director called the job developer shortly after Cindy's resume was submitted. The job developer explained to the director that although Cindy can be quiet at times, she had prior child care experience and if given a chance, would clearly show her abilities. In addition to advocating for Cindy, the job developer created an employer proposal for the director that consisted of a brainstormed list of job responsibilities for Cindy. The job developer highlighted how those responsibilities could meet the director's specific needs at the child-care center. The list included feeding and changing the infants, reading stories, assisting with arts and crafts, ensuring the children's safety on the playground and in the classroom, and helping with snack times and cleaning. The job developer made sure that the director understood that Cindy had experience with all of these responsibilities.

The director was in need of someone to assist with the tasks mentioned above, and she agreed to have Cindy come in for a job trial so that she could observe her on the job. The job developer accompanied Cindy on her job trial and, along with the director, observed how Cindy's demeanor changed as soon as she was around the children. She immediately became more outgoing, smiled at the children, and engaged them in playful activities. Through watching Cindy in that brief hour, the director was confident that Cindy would be an asset to the day care center and hired her as an assistant.

What happened

Cindy has been working at the day care center for several years and is a valued employee. She works Monday through Friday from 12–4:30 p.m. Cindy spends the first part of the day in the infant room, holding the babies and changing and feeding them. The second part of her day is spent with the pre-school aged children, reading to them, supervising them on the playground, and assisting with snack time and bathroom needs. The children have quickly warmed up to her and she is always responsive to their needs. The other staff members had never worked with an employee with an intellectual disability, and were initially skeptical regarding her skills. However, as they got to know her, they realized her reliability and dedication. Cindy has told her family and the ICI staff that she is enjoying working with children and is very happy with her job overall.

Lessons learned

  • Utilize internships or work experience programs to gain marketable skills in the type of work the job seeker desires.
  • Negotiate ardently with employers, focusing on strengths and prior experience.
  • Develop a formal proposal of job tasks to the employer, illustrating how a job can be created that meets business needs.
  • Encourage potential employers to consider options such as a job trial, in addition to traditional resumes and interviews, as an opportunity to observe an individual's skills and abilities.