S ometimes, childhood experiences can completely shape the path of a person’s career and life. Just ask Brandi Clayton.
Clayton’s years spent volunteering with her father at Stephenville Nursing and Rehab and helping out with CPS foster care events as a teenager led her to where she is now: a nursing home administrator and foster mom with seven (soon to be eight) adopted children.
Clayton graduated from Dublin High School in 1999 and decided to attend Tarleton for her degree in business administration. While Clayton was completing her degree at Tarleton, she commuted to Howard Payne twice a week to earn her nursing home administration certificate.
“I wanted to do be a nurse originally, but my dad had started working; he was a nursing home administrator here in Stephenville and I started working under him,” she said. “I worked in the kitchen, and then I was a nurses aid and medication aid and then I was the activity director and from there it just kind of seemed like the thing to do.”
When she graduated, she moved out to Breckenridge to be a nursing home administrator there. While she was living in Breckenridge, Clayton met her now-husband, Danny Clayton, who lived in Austin at the time. After a year of long-distance dating, Clayton moved back to Dublin and Danny joined her.
In Dublin, Clayton got a job as the director of CCS hospice, where she worked for a year before switching to an administrator job at Golden Age Manor. She stayed at Golden Age for 11 years, and then moved to Stephenville and started working at Stephenville Nursing and Rehab — the same place her father had worked 10 years before.
“[My father] loved the residents and the interaction here,” Clayton said. “There are some residents that are here with me now that were there when he was there, and they come talk to me about him. He loved being a part of their life and being there for them when they needed somebody.”
Now that’s Clayton’s job, and she takes it seriously. Being a nursing home administrator comes with many responsibilities, and Clayton can often be found at the home early in the morning or late at night making sure everyone is getting the care they need.
“A lot of time we, the staff, become their family,” she said. “We are the ones who see their good times and their bad, and it’s hard sometimes when they don’t have family or family close by and no one comes to see them. They sometimes feel like they have nobody but us.”
Even though the job can be hard at times, Clayton says she finds it rewarding.
“I love what I do,” she said. “I love being there with the residents and being able to feel like I can make a difference.”
When she leaves the nursing home, Clayton’s caring nature extends to her home life; she and her husband are foster parents to several children with special needs. Clayton knew she wanted to be a foster parent since she was a teenager.
“When I was in high school I volunteered at a CPS foster parent retreat,” she said. “We helped watch the kids while the foster parents were in training, and after that it always stuck with me and I wanted to be able to foster at some point.”
In her early career, she wanted to get her license, but the timing never seemed right. Finally, in 2007, Clayton and her husband made up their minds to go for it. “We just decided we were going to do it and not let anything get in our way,” she said.
Now, over a decade later, the Claytons have legally adopted seven children and fostered many more.
“People just don’t understand that, why we would [adopt special needs children], tie ourselves down like that,” she said. “They see the negatives of a special needs person instead of opening up to see that they’re just another person who needs to be cared for and needs love. They can thrive if they just have a little bit of love.”
Clayton’s parents, David and Patti Johnson, were active in the Dublin community while Clayton was growing up. Patti Johnson died in 2005, and David Johnson died in 2017.
“My family was always such a big part of Dublin, and Dublin will always be home,” she said. “My dad was police chief there for 19 years, and my mom always worked there. We brought all of our kids home when we moved to Dublin ... I love being part of that family.”
Clayton encourages Dublin graduates to be creative and set concrete goals of what they want to accomplish.
“Don’t limit yourself,” she said. “Always think outside the box, and you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.”
Editor’s Note: This column chronicles what Dublin graduates have done since high school. If you have any suggestions for other graduates, email firstname.lastname@example.org .