Frontline Initiative Choice, Direction, and Control
It's time to roar!
The stability of the direct support workforce has been a long-standing issue across disability service systems. The field is plagued with high turnover at a time when demand for additional direct support professionals (DSPs) to support disability and aging populations in the United States is peaking. An estimated one million new direct support positions will be needed by 2022. Growing demand, limited availability of training and education, and increased expectations and requirements make investment in this workforce essential. Traditional methods to address these issues have only resulted in small improvements. Now it’s time to bring DSPs into the discussion. It’s time to engage with them to speak for themselves.
We’ve just returned from our annual conference “The Third One” in Omaha, Nebraska. By all accounts it was a great success. Following The Third One was National Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week. DSPs were recognized, thanked, and appreciated in creative ways across the country. We, at the NADSP have created many research-based products. We have provided services to advance the knowledge, skills and values of the direct support workforce. The NADSP co-sponsored National Direct Support Professional Recognition Week. But, when you really think about it, have we made enough change? Sadly the data tells us, no.
During the introduction of our John F. Kennedy, Jr. Award for Direct Support Workforce Leadership & Advocacy, Amy Hewitt from the University of Minnesota took a moment to issue a call to action. Amy challenged the 250 people in the room to lead a campaign to call their elected officials and share their stories. In paraphrasing Amy, it’s the DSP voices that will make a difference. It is not the voices of agency executives, researchers, trade associations or lobbyists. Change will come when the 2 million men and women who do this work get involved in their own cause.
As Amy said, “If every DSP called once a month and shared their story about what they do to support people with developmental disabilities – their needs and the high-skilled nature of their job, the risks they take, the ethical decisions they make, the problem solving they have to do, and the autonomy they are required to work under – it would make the MOST difference”.
We at the NADSP heard Amy’s call to action. Our public policy committee will be creating an easy-to-use, online portal. This will have all the tools you’ll need to make these important calls. This portal will include simple ways to find the names and contact numbers of all your elected officials. It will include important talking points about direct support work. It will include the challenges of supporting your own family on poverty-level wages. It will also include the rewards of having a job that assists people with disabilities to achieve meaning in their lives and be less reliant on public assistance. We want you to share your contributions in promoting the human and civil rights of people who have been ignored by society. Finally, we will send you information on the latest issues and topics that will affect the direct support profession. We will provide you with important talking points for you to use on your calls.
It’s time to get engaged. It’s time to hear direct support professionals roar.