Homecare keeps us together

By Jamie Shamblin, caregiver from Riverside County

Jamie Shamblin and her daughter Emma.

Jamie Shamblin and her daughter Emma.

When my daughter Emma was born premature, the doctors gave her 30 days to live. She is Deaf and legally blind, has a seizure disorder, Cerebral Palsy, and—we suspect— Sjögren’s Syndrome. She has been fed from a tube since the day she was born. But today, 12 years after the doctors gave her a month to live, Emma is alive and well.

My daughter has survived and even thrived through love and caring in the home. Despite her many para-medical needs and constant supervision, we have been able to provide her with a life that would never be possible in an institutional setting.

In order to schedule our lives around Emma’s care, my husband and I homeschool all three of our children. Homeschooling also allows us to be more connected to our church and our community. And the whole family is involved in the homeless support ministry that we run out of our home—through the ministry we help folks in need find food, clothing, transportation, housing, and other assistance, by connecting them with various programs in the community.

Jamie performs para-medical service to feed her daughter Emma through a tube.

Jamie performs para-medical service to feed her daughter Emma through a tube.

This is all possible because I am able to earn a living as Emma’s care provider through the In-Home Supportive Services program.

I first began working for IHSS in 2002 in Humboldt County. At that time there were many disadvantaged people that needed help in their homes, but not many homecare providers and no union representation. I earned about $7.00 an hour, with no benefits. It wasn’t a wage I could live on, and I had to move back to Tennessee for a while and stay with my mom. When I returned to California in 2008—this time to Riverside County—I was worried about whether I could survive on homecare wages; Emma requires round-the-clock care so it would be impossible for me to work outside the home.

Jamie's husband cares for Emma.

Jamie’s husband cares for Emma, and also helps to home-school all of their children.

I was greatly encouraged and inspired to see how far we had come in just six short years! In Riverside, providers had won a living wage, and I would be able to stay at home with Emma and our boys after all. When I learned about everything UDW caregivers had done to better IHSS in recent years, I did not hesitate to sign up as a union member.

Since then I’ve seen how our union has continued to work to prevent cuts to the program and am so proud to be among caregivers who are fighting to protect homecare and our clients. And this year, we won overtime pay!

Caregivers are scheduled to begin earning overtime pay this January, which will make a huge difference in my family’s life. Even with a reasonable hourly wage it is very hard to make ends meet. My dream is to save for a down-payment to buy a home so we can stop renting and help secure a future for Emma once we’re gone.  We have always prayed that she will outlive us and that would be a true blessing. In the meantime, we’re going to keep caring for our daughter, our family, and our community—and we’ll keep fighting for the program that keeps all of us together.

Emma with her mother, father and two brothers - happy at home!

Emma with her mother, father and two brothers – happy at home!


Paid for by United Domestic Workers of America Action Fund, sponsored by United Domestic Workers of America. Not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.