Frontline Initiative Professionalism

ANCOR: Informing DSPs on Policy
How legislation affects their work


Joni Fritz is executive director of ANCOR in Annandale, VA

The American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) currently represents over 600 agencies and organizations across the U.S. that together support more than 150,000 people with mental retardation and other disabilities. ANCOR promotes and assists private providers by serving as an accurate and timely source of information from the legislative, regulatory, and judicial branches of the federal government. ANCOR provides members with information regarding trends and innovations in the field. As members share with each other the practices that have led to the best outcomes for people with disabilities, this effects change in the way services and supports are provided the nationwide.

Staffing and labor-related issues have been a major concern of the organization’s members since its beginning years. ANCOR has worked with the U.S. Department of Labor since 1973 to understand wage and hour requirements that pertain to Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who work in residential programs, and to develop new policies more appropriate for a relatively new and growing industry. For example, inflexible federal labor rules often limit the ways providers can staff residences, even when DSPs are requesting the changes. Much of labor law was written in the 1930s, before employees were seeking flexibility in their schedule and duties. ANCOR has endeavored to keep track of interpretations that expand opportunities to accommodate employee needs.

In the human service field, DSPs often wish to socialize with the people they support outside of their regular working hours. Yet, there is a broad prohibition against permitting employees to volunteer to do the same type of work they are paid to do. The Labor Department has ruled that DSPs may therefore not “volunteer” to support the people they are otherwise paid to serve. This prohibition has often proved a problem when the DSP wishes to invite someone from a group living arrangement to come home with him or her for a weekend or accompany him or her on a family outing. In 1980, ANCOR obtained a letter defining labor policy to permit home visits specifically initiated by the DSP. This letter has enabled agencies to reverse policies prohibiting DSPs from voluntarily socializing with those they are paid to support.

Sometimes DSPs also want to become foster care providers. While there is a general rule that prohibits an employer from contracting with an individual who is an employee, ANCOR has a copy of a letter from the Department of Labor which states that employers may also contract to provide foster care in their homes. This exception expands opportunities for DSPs. ANCOR is also currently working on amendments to the U.S. Tax Code which will revise the confusing statutory language that excludes some, but not all, foster care payments from income taxes. Currently, these payments are taxable when adults are supported in a foster home and they are placed by and/or payments are made by a private agency rather than directly by a state or county government agency. Many are unaware of these differences and are at risk of having to pay back taxes. By revising the tax codes, so that provision can be made for private agencies to arrange for foster care, DSPs would be able to provide foster care and receive an exclusion from taxes for these services.

ANCOR also supports the development of strong networks among members and other organizations at the local, state and national levels. ANCOR’s membership in the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) is one example of its dedication to effecting change for the improvement of services to those with disabilities. Last March, ANCOR cosponsored a NADSP conference and continues to provide much of the networking information necessary for current research in DSP labor issues.

Through communication and coordination with many entities across the U.S., services and the systems that support people with disabilities have improved greatly since the 1970s. ANCOR has played a major role with the service delivery system in multiple networks to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities. The organization looks forward to the coming millennium with expectations that life will continue to get better for all of the people in our nation.