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Deaf and Blind caregivers want some give and take

By Jennifer Smith
summarized by Joelle Chasse, staff writer

Impending changes to education requirements have many child care givers at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind worrying about job security. These new requirements will be activated in July 2015. The decision has resulted in planned walk-outs and protests earlier this week by students, who demand to keep their current caretakers.

Anita Mitter with the West Virginia Education Association had this to say: “They are their moms and pops when they are there at school. They’re the ones that meet them when school is over. They’re the ones that hold their hands when there are problems. They’re the ones that soothe their hurt. They’re the ones that put them to bed at night, be sure they’ve eaten enough, be sure they’re safe.”

Several months ago, the state Board of Education approved a plan requiring these child caretakers to obtain associate’s degrees in residential care or else lose their jobs. According to Mitter, people are concerned.

“We want to give these folks, that have all this experience, to be given priority for these jobs…we don’t see the reason for the [associate’s] degree but most people are willing to go to college but they want to be given longer than three years. Third is the cost. We need some help with the cost,” Mitter states.

Although the caretakers have staged their own protests previously, Mitter assures that the students held their own rally without any encouragement. She stresses, We have said we do not want the students involved…We appreciate their support but we have not encouraged that in any way!”

Mitter also emphasizes that the caretakers are not opposed to achieving a higher education within their field; however, an associate’s degree is an unnecessary, costly, and difficult endeavor that many staff members cannot afford. She insists that the current caretakers understand the children’s needs, and that a “degree is not going to give them that kind of compassion and caring and their love that they currently have.”

State Board members have stated that the goal of the new requirements is to equip the current caretakers with better tools to help their students, not to eliminate their jobs.

For the full story here.

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