One of Michigan’s most in-demand industries pays just $10 an hour

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They only met in November, but now they spend hours together each day. Doreen reads to Madeleine, anything from Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” to the “Berenstain Bears.” She asks Madeleine about her favorite music and TV shows. They hold hands and laugh.

Madeleine Mulder is 23. She has cerebral palsy. She talks to Doreen with her hands and a speech-generating device on a tablet. She cranes her neck to see Doreen when Doreen leaves the room.

This is the happiest Doreen Bowerman has been in her working life. As Madeleine’s home-care worker, she feels like she makes a difference every day.

During the years she worked as a legal assistant, she had full benefits, she said, “but not these kinds of benefits.”

Odds are, someone like Bowerman will one day care for you or someone you love.

But, in Michigan and across the country, there aren’t enough home-care workers to help the elderly and people with disabilities.

Michigan alone will need more than 30,000 additional direct-care workers by 2020, and thousands more as the state’s senior population spikes over the next 15 years, according to projections from PHI, a worker advocacy organization focused on the direct care workforce.

But home-care jobs pay poorly. Most offer inconsistent hours, no benefits and few opportunities for advancement. And because compensation is often tied to what the federal government will pay, local employers don’t have easy solutions.

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