Unlocking the Future of Homecare: California’s IHSS Career Pathways Program and PHI’s Contributions
Valerie Orrick is a homecare provider who’s cared for her daughter who is quadriplegic and non-ambulatory since 1995. Living in Red Bluff—a small town in the northern reaches of California’s central valley—Valerie lacked access to formal training and guidance. “I was offered no training for nearly 30 years. Trying to figure out how to care for my daughter was just my own research, listening to what doctors said, and hope and prayers,” she says. For Valerie and hundreds of thousands of other caregivers, this was a recipe for frustration, stress, and even depression.
However, the past year has witnessed a dramatic transformation in California’s homecare sector, thanks to the inception of the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Career Pathways program. Launched in September 2022, this ambitious initiative offers paid training opportunities to more than 500,000 homecare providers across the state. While the program’s scale and objectives are noteworthy, a key factor amplifying its success was a strategic partnership with PHI, and we are proud of the results.
Filling the Training Gap
For years, homecare providers in California struggled with the lack of formal training and resources. Many caregivers faced challenges such as burnout, stress, and the mental toll of providing long-term care without adequate support. The IHSS Career Pathways program aimed to rectify these issues, providing high-quality training that ranges from general health and safety to complex care needs and mental health.
Together with Homebridge, a non-profit caregiver organization leading the way in modern in-home care, PHI played a central role in elevating the quality and breadth of this program. We developed and delivered 39 online training modules, which drastically expanded the level of training available to over half a million independent providers in California. These modules cover a wide array of subjects and are designed to improve both the caregivers’ professional skills and their understanding of self-care—a critical component often overlooked in traditional training paradigms.
However, our involvement goes beyond merely developing course content. Together we created high-quality, skills-based training videos featuring real-life consumer-caregiver dyads. These videos provide practical insights into real-world caregiving scenarios and set a new standard in the direct care training landscape. Before PHI and Homebridge’s collaboration, training videos of comparable quality and authentic representation were virtually non-existent, making this a groundbreaking addition to the caregiver education ecosystem.
Our collective contributions are a compelling example of how public-private collaborations can enrich state-led initiatives. Their involvement does not just serve the immediate goals of the IHSS Career Pathways program; it also acts as a blueprint for similar programs elsewhere. The public-private partnership model showcased here reveals how specialized organizations like PHI and Homebridge can bring niche expertise, technological resources, and innovative approaches to state-run initiatives, thereby augmenting their reach and effectiveness.
Lessons for the Nation and Future Potential
The timeline for the IHSS Career Pathways program was aggressive, requiring rapid adaptation and coordination within PHI’s team. This constraint acted as a catalyst for internal growth, setting a new standard for what the organization can accomplish within tight deadlines. The skills and coordination developed through this project have lasting implications, not only enabling PHI to fulfill its commitments under the current program but also preparing the organization for future large-scale projects.
California’s IHSS Career Pathways program, bolstered by Homebridge and PHI’s contributions, offers invaluable lessons for policymakers and stakeholders nationwide. Key takeaways include the importance of comprehensive, paid training for caregivers, and the untapped potential of public-private partnerships in executing such large-scale programs. Furthermore, the focus on caregiver well-being and self-care illustrates that training programs must address the mental and emotional aspects of caregiving, not just the technical skills.
As the largest-scale homecare training program launched in the U.S., IHSS Career Pathways demonstrates the profound impact well-designed and well-funded programs can have on both caregivers and care recipients. And with our collaborative efforts, the program serves as an exemplar of how organizational expertise can significantly contribute to state-led initiatives, enhancing their quality, scope, and long-term sustainability.
The program continues to unfold, with courses set to run until at least 2024. Its early successes, including the capacity to train up to 18,000 providers per month, signify the scalability of such initiatives. In doing so, the IHSS Career Pathways program and PHI’s contributions pave the way for a more robust, equitable, and effective homecare ecosystem, not just in California, but potentially across the United States.
Walt Moster, a caretaker actively participating in Career Pathways agrees. He shared, “It’s been a long time coming!” Based in Placer County, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada east of Sacramento, Walt has been taking care of his adult son for nearly 20 years, ever since his son suffered a traumatic brain injury. “I wish I’d had this 19 years ago. There are so many people out there that really need access to these trainings and the community of fellow students.”