Celebrating Alister’s Achievements: A Q&A on 25 Years and Counting
Congratulations to Alister Guillaume, House Manager at Citizens’ Lake Grove Residence, on his recent 25th work anniversary. In that time, Alister has worn many hats in the agency, including Program Coordinator, Diversity Facilitator, Incident Investigator, and DSP ICF trainer. For Alister, the positions that he’s liked the most have been hands on.
For the past several years, he has overseen residences for sister agency, Brookville Center for Children Services (BCCS). He worked across the three children’s group homes until late last year when several of the young men from the BCCS Lido Beach homes transitioned into Citizens Options Unlimited’s adult residences.
Q: Why did you choose to transition along with these young men?
I see a lot of regression (when people age out of children services), so I didn’t want to see that happen to this group of boys. . .I know what these boys like to do, so I can ensure that continues for them, like keeping the same schedule and activities.
Q: How do you maintain an environment where the people you support can continue to learn, grow, and thrive?
When you go into the community (adult residences), it’s much more lax than when you’re in school because staff can’t make you do activities once you’re an adult. The supports aren’t there for adults in the same way they are for children, but we try to do more here. I try to encourage them, but I also try to keep it natural. We are always practicing and building skills.
Q: How do you create a supportive and transparent work environment?
It’s important in this field to show people exactly who you are. That’s what I want to teach the boys and my staff. It’s okay to be yourself, but make sure it’s respectful. No one should feel like they have to change who they are when they come to work, and people appreciate the consistency and honesty. No one expects you to be perfect, which is why I say it’s always better to let people know when you screw up and how you plan to fix it, especially when it comes to parents.
I try to keep the mood light in the house, and I show concern when someone is going through something or needs help. You want staff to feel confident in themselves. I meet regularly with them to talk about their successes and what they can improve on. I always try to bring the good to light so they feel seen for what they do.
People give me a lot of credit but it’s not just me, I couldn’t do this without the DSPs. They get excited about the boys’ milestones, and it encourages them to do more and feel proud about the work they’re doing.
Q: What are some skills you and your team work on?
Conversations & Friendship: Consistency is key. I try to have skills blend naturally into daily conversations, like reminding the boys to answer questions in full sentences and to ask follow-up questions that build conversations.
One of our boys is minimally verbal and we try to help him to not just use his communication device. He now responds to questions with “yes” or “no” and calls staff by their names; he even says, “I love you” to staff and his housemates.
Food & Picky Eaters: I’ve also had families say, “Wow, I’ve never seen my son eat x, y, z before,” but now they like things like salmon, shrimp, stews, and Chinese food.
Parents thank us so much when it comes to reaching new food milestones. Parents say, “I only have to cook one meal now and my family can finally eat together with knives and forks. We can sit like a family with no problem.”
Chores & Independence: I make them feel included and meet them where they are. We do chores together, like laundry, garbage, dishes, and cleaning our bedrooms. Anthony likes to remind everyone when it’s time to do chores. He even helps staff take care of his housemates. The other day he went home for the weekend, and he called one of my staff on Sunday night to remind them to take the trash out to the curb, since he wouldn’t be home to help out.
Q: What are your plans for this summer?
I try to always make fun plans for my boys. We’re going to Splish Splash soon and the boys regularly go to the gym; they like swimming, Zumba, and yoga and we work out at home sometimes too. They also like to go to shows, sports games, horseback riding and amusement parks.