Professional Family Teachers finding Joy in Shared Living

Professional Family Teachers finding Joy in Shared Living

Professional Family Teachers (PFTs) are the heart of GoodLife’s unique Shared Living Model. In this family-style living arrangement, a person with intellectual or developmental disabilities lives in the home of a carefully selected and highly trained host family. The individual is part of a caring family and has real-life opportunities to develop independence.

Becoming a PFT is a rewarding career path for those who have a passion for helping others. This living arrangement fits into many providers’ lives and schedules. In this blog, we’ll share the perspective of Professional Family Teachers working with GoodLife so you can learn more about this fulfilling role. They share how they learned about Shared Living, the rewards of being a Professional Family Teacher, and how to find balance in the face of challenges.

Catina Jennings – Professional Family Teacher

Hear more from Catina as she discusses her experience as a Shared Living Provider with GoodLife.

Catina Jennings began working for GoodLife as a Direct Support Provider (DSP). She worked in several roles before starting as a Professional Family Teacher. She explains, “Shared Living drew my attention because it was truly a home and family-oriented setting. So that is what brought me into the PFT Program.”

“Serving people and being able to help people with their quality of life has always been a driving force in my life”, says Catina. She explains “I love our individuals and being a part of their lives…It just made my life worth it”.

Her love for her work is apparent when you see the bond Catina has with Polly and Carl, the two individuals living with her. Carl lived with Catina’s daughter before he moved in with her eight years ago. She considers him part of their family. He was even at the birth of one of her grandchildren. Polly moved into the house a year ago. She and Catina have spent a lot of time building their relationship in this short time. It shows in the playful way they interact with each other and the smiles they share while chatting.

Being a Professional Family Teacher

Professional Family Teachers make a difference in the lives of individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities and help them live more independently. Catina says, “one of the things that I love about GoodLife is that they are teaching-based “. In the Shared Living Program, providers use their expertise to teach individuals and create opportunities for them to learn independent living skills. Everyone in the residence learns from each other and grows together.

Catina says she loves being a Professional Family Teacher. For her, it’s more than a job, “it’s a lifestyle. And if your life is about serving and helping other people with their quality of life…then this is definitely the place”. You can learn more about Catina’s story in her video

The Sanders Family – Professional Family Teachers

Scott and The Sanders

Ashley and Mark Sanders are a professional family teacher team in GoodLife’s Shared Living Model. Mark, a special education teacher, was introduced to the program through a parent of a former student. He says, “it’s been a great fit ever since.” 

Through Shared Living, Mark and Ashley were introduced to Scott and his mother. From the very beginning, they felt a bond with Scott and his family. The relationship has only grown stronger over the four years Scott has lived in the Sanders’ house.

Mark explains, “it was just really a nice smooth transition…and we felt really good about going along the journey.” His wife Ashley continues Shared Living “allowed us to be able to support someone and meet their needs, but also meet our needs along with our busy schedule”.

The entire Sanders Family, including their children, have learned a lot while living with Scott. Mark explains that Shared Living has taught “our children that it’s good not to be judgmental, and to accept everybody…and be able to give back.” Ashley’s “favorite part about being a PFT Provider is the exposure [her] children get, as far as communicating with others who communicate differently”. She said seeing her children “learn how to think of others outside of themselves” is a highlight of her experience as a parent.

Training and Support for Professional Family Teachers

One thing that the Sanders family found helpful was GoodLife’s comprehensive training. Even though Mark is a teacher with lots of experience, he said that having access to the training and GoodLife’s team made him “feel competent, knowing that you’re doing the right thing.” Ashley agrees that “it was very thorough training” that prepared her for the job.

In addition to training, GoodLife offers hands-on support for our contractors throughout the entire process. As a Professional Family Teacher, you’re part of a team that includes guardians, case managers, care coordinators, and others. The team is there to support you and work with you to ensure the resident has the best life experiences possible. 

Balancing professional and family life

Being a Professional Family Teacher, like any job, has its challenges and it’s important to be aware of them. Catina says that one of her biggest challenges is keeping “a healthy balance because as much as I want to give, give, give, I have to remember that I need to take time for myself”. Mark agrees and says PFTs need to give themselves “permission to take a break.” 

Ashley suggests Shared Living Contractors “create a sense of support around you through your family, friends, and also within the GoodLife Community” because “it’s always easier when you have things in place.”  She goes on to say, “the blessing about being a PFT is that you create this community outside of your own family, which is an extended family”.

GoodLife offers respite services for Professional Family Teachers. Our close network helps each other, so everyone has the time they need to recharge. Respite paired with natural support helps providers find the balance between their professional and personal life.

Learn more about becoming a Professional Family Teacher and Shared Living

Interested in becoming a Professional Family Teacher

Ashley encourages anyone thinking about this career path to “have plenty of conversations and communicate with the staff of GoodLife. They’re very supportive.” Once you meet a potential match, she advises, “take your time, talk to all the individuals involved, and make sure that you have plenty of time to develop a relationship prior to the transition.” The Sanders emphasize the importance of communication within the family unit and with GoodLife staff to ensure that everyone’s needs are met in the home.

Ashley, Catina, and Mark say they all feel blessed to have found such an amazing community in which to serve and have learned so much from their experiences in Shared Living. To learn more about becoming a Professional Family Teacher, contact:

Natalie Quinn, Quality Specialist, pftmprogram@mygoodlife.org or 785-917-1752

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