Got an interesting call yesterday from a woman who operates an ALF where one of our members lives.  She was balking at filling out the Health and Safety Form that was sent to a member through the mail.  At first she said that she would not fill out any of the information because DeAnna wasn’t competent.  She explained to me that DeAnna had limited understanding because she has a limited comprehension because of a birth defect.  She has the understanding of a third or fourth grader.

I asked if DeAnna had been adjudicated incompetent in a court of law.  “No, but her sister is very protective and I’m not giving you any information.  Where have you gotten information from in the past?” she asked.

“I’ve gotten it from DeAnna,” I explained.

“She can’t give you information.  You don’t understand she has a limited understanding because she is…”

I interrupted, “Yes, Ma’am, I understand that she is developmentally delayed.  However, unless she has been adjudicated incompetent, she can decide whether I receive this information from you.”

“Oh,” she said.  “Who are you?  Are you that Saturday program that takes people to the fair.  You do a terrible job.  I went to the fair one year and I found DeAnna lost and didn’t know where anyone was.  You…”

Again, I interrupted, “No, Ma’am.  We are not that program.  In fact, I have no relationship with them. I even cancel my program on the days that they are having their outings so that no one will get confused.

“They provide no supervision for the people who attend and they make that fact very public.  If DeAnna has attended, she had been told that there will be no supervision.  When The Special Gathering takes people out, we have supervision and we have medical information in case there is a medical problem.”

Again, she countered, “I can’t possibly give you this information because there is a law called HIPPA.  It keeps me from giving you any information.”

“That’s true…unless DeAnna requests the information.  That is why she is required to sign our form, not you.  It would also be a good idea to have her sister sign the form.  There is a form that says that DeAnna and her sister won’t give me the information and that you will be liable for whatever happens.  It’s fine if you want to send that.”

Suddenly, this person realized that I understood something about the community that we served.  “Okay.  I’ll give you the information but her sister will have to agree.”

It was interesting to me that she was refusing to give any health and safety information but she wanted DeAnna to be protected at all times.

In dealing with the professional community, a Christian ministry must earn the respect of the professionals who work with your members.  You probably will not afforded automatic respect just because you have a Master’s Degree and they have a high school diploma or an undergraduate degree.  You won’t be given respect because you have done this for 20 years, and they have only recently opened their group home.  You won’t be given respect even though you have known and worked with your members for a decade and this person has only entered their lives in the past months.

I can only imagine how much respect an itinerate Rabbi from Galilee was given by the scribes and Pharisees in Jerusalem.  However, he earned their respect because he had the respect of the crowds of people.  When your members respect you, this is your greatest ticket to respect.

There are additional steps that will garner their respect.  You will be given respect if you understand the laws under which the professional community must work.  You will be given respect if you give them respect.  You will be given respect when you prove that you are able to help your members in ways that they are not able to help.  It’s not a one stop deal but bundled together, you will gain the respect of the professional community.

Remember you must work with and around these folks.  It is important that they know that you are working with them not against them.  However, there is a time stand your ground.  Even that will help to gain their respect.

What are some other ways you have found that will earn the respect of the professional community?  Do you even think this is important?  Can you have a working relationship without mutual respect?