Frontline Initiative Self-Determination

Getting Involved:
Local Coalition Promotes Alliance Goals

The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) has been working to develop local and regional coalitions of the NADSP and connect with existing coalitions that support the mission and goals of the Alliance. Through these networks we believe we will reach many more individuals who are concerned with the issues of the Direct Support Professional (DSP) workforce, and build our capacity to effect change, both on a regional and national level. This Alliance update will focus on the work and goals of one regional group, the Mid-Hudson Coalition (MHC) that exemplifies local efforts and activities that support the mission of the NADSP.

The Mid-Hudson Coalition, with its voluntary, paid membership of 35 agencies, 5 local colleges and more than 200 individuals, is a regional effort to improve quality supports for all people with special needs by elevating the stature of direct care to a profession in its own right. Its work includes representatives from a spectrum of service systems — developmental disabilities, mental health, child welfare, geriatric care and education — which began collectively addressing recruitment and retention issues related to direct care over 10 years ago. MHC examined salary schedules, benefits and work force demographics, and best practices in the United States and Europe. According to the MHC philosophy, a career is defined by a specific education which generates a credible and portable credential. Therefore, the answer to recruitment and retention problems is a simple but long-term one: a new profession must be developed through education. If quality is defined at the point of service, then there must be a re-directional resource to the point of service in order to ensure competence and a career commitment.

The MHC has focused its educational endeavors on three interrelated areas: 1) educational opportunities for direct care workers to increase both the quality and quantity of the work force, 2) agency development to establish and welcome effective models of practice, and 3) governmental involvement with the regulatory agencies and legislators. To these ends the MHC has developed educational programs at the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz and in several of the community colleges. The SUNY program is a bachelor degree in Sociology with a Concentration in Direct Care Practice (CDCP). The CDCP was developed in 1992 and modeled after Danish college education in social pedagogy (see FI Vol. 3, No. 1, Winter 1999 for more information on Social Pedagogy). The MHC raised funds to hire two professors from Copenhagen, Denmark to assist us in developing the program in its first two years. By the fall of 1999, the MHC anticipates that five county community colleges will have certificate programs in direct care in place that are based on the nationally validated Community Support Skill Standards developed by Human Services Research Institute in Cambridge, MA. Currently, Dutchess County Community College has a 16-credit certificate and Ulster County Community College has an 18- credit certificate. To encourage the success of these programs, the MHC has provided partial scholarship and books/materials grants to students. The MHC also coordinates an annual conference for DSPs and sponsors two to three CEO/HR forums each year.

Effective systematic reform requires the commitment and work of many people in order to advance educational opportunities, career ladders, policy changes, organizational development, and compensation adjusted to levels of responsibility. In isolation, no organization can accomplish these types of educational and system-reform goals. The MHC thus seeks broader connections among the supports system. The NADSP is such an organization and MHC is pleased to be in alignment and affiliation with this national coalition.