WE MUST PROTECT OUR RBTs and BTs.
After a 2 year hiatus, Dr. Jon Bailey and I are resuming our Ethics Webinar Trainings again. I’ve been studying the 2022 BCBA Ethics Code and am really pleased with the recent changes. I especially appreciate the inclusion of 1.07 Cultural Responsiveness and Diversity and 1.08 Nondiscrimination and 1.10 Awareness of Personal Biases and Challenges. Interpreted and applied as it was intended, I believe the Ethics Code can serve as a framework for driving best practices for Behavior Analysts and Behavior Technicians / RBTs.
We must address the chronic industry-wide problem of turnover among RBTs and BTs if we’re able to live up to the code. The Ethics Code is there to protect the consumer but HR practices and clinical practices are set up such that we’re abusing our most critical resource – RBTs and BTs.
Even for agencies with best intentions, it’s virtually impossible to deliver quality services when turnover among direct care staff is over 70%. The constant disruption in services for clients means even those lucky enough to be receiving ABA services are progressing at a much slower rate than would be possible with continuity of service.
I’ve been in the field of ABA for nearly 12 years. Prior to that, I was in corporate. Personally, HR practices for RBTs and BTs don’t make any sense to me. This is the ONLY industry that I know of where financial risk is expected to be borne by groups of people least able to assume that risk.
If an RBT / BT is hired as a full-time employee, they expect to be working full time. They plan their lives around how much money they expect to receive working full time. Yet so many agencies employ the practice of ONLY paying RBTs for hours that they are delivering direct services. When a client cancels, RBTs don’t work. If they don’t work. They don’t get paid.
This practice is great for a company’s bottom line as they don’t have to “carry” overhead. The risk has completely shifted to the RBT/BT. But how is this fair? How does this make any sense? Among the stakeholders that comprise the care delivery team – company, BCBA, RBT, Client, Parent – the company is in the best position to assume the financial risk because the company is the one benefiting financially. Yet, in our field, most ABA organizations employ a model where the risk is expected to be borne by the RBTs.
How do we expect any loyalty when no loyalty is given? Employers must take the first step to figure out a rational risk/reward model to provide RBTs with financial stability by changing their business practices. Those employers who can develop a model to live up to their commitment to protecting the livelihood of their direct care staff by assuming the financial risk are ones who deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated because that’s the picture of an ethical organization.
How do we begin to affect systems-level change? We start by matching up these ethical agencies with the most committed RBTs.