Frontline Initiative John F. Kennedy Jr. Tribute

Alliance Update

Most people knew John F. Kennedy, Jr. as the son of a famous president, a member of a famous family or the founding editor of the national magazine, George. Fewer knew him as the impetus behind the development of a national coalition to address direct support worker issues or a supporter of a grassroots newsletter for direct support professional: Frontline Initiative. In the inaugural issue of Frontline Initiative, John F. Kennedy, Jr. challenged national organizations to unite and form an alliance that would strive to bring direct support workers a much deserved professional identity, to increase attention and resolution to the problems faced by direct support workers across the United States and to focus on the important partnerships needed between direct support professionals and people with disabilities. We are reprinting his initial article (page 9) to remind readers about the important role he played in forming the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals and supporting the publication of this newsletter.

John F. Kennedy, Jr. believed in the importance of direct support workers, support participants and other stakeholders in our human service community joining hands across the nation and, indeed, around the world to strengthen the workforce and to empower consumers.

In launching the Frontline Initiative and celebrating the beginnings of the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals, John F. Kennedy, Jr. expressed hopes and images that many of us share. These images include a future where direct support professionals and people receiving support walk together, talk together and create a future that has more to do with partnership and common goals than with the differences and formal service structures that keep us apart. A future where token presence of DSPs and consumers at conferences and policy meetings is eclipsed by the full presence and participation of these constituencies who share so much common ground. The NADSP and its publication, Frontline Initiative, are working hard to cultivate the changes that John Kennedy envisioned when he planted the fiscal and strategic seeds for our work in the Alliance and facilitated our outreach to DSPs by supporting the newsletter.

The NADSP embraces and elevates the voice of direct support professionals and consumers by ensuring that its steering committee is led by a direct support professional, a self-advocate, and a workforce development professional. Our primary goals this year are to support and broaden the network of local coalitions aligned with NADSP goals. Coalitions are gathering in New York, Missouri, Ohio, Kentucky, New Hampshire, and Washington and affiliating with the NADSP mission. 

Local affiliates are communicating primarily by telephone, email and our recently organized list-serve. Groups are sharing legislative and policy initiatives that strengthen the workforce and are helping NADSP develop a code of ethical practice for direct support professionals and a framework for a national credential. Along with their role as local change agents, the NADSP envisions these coalitions as the key nodes in a network of locally driven, nationally connected credentialling bodies participating in the credentialling criteria they have developed and endorsed.

Frontline Initiative brings the voice of direct support professionals and self-advocates to thousands of readers on a quarterly basis. This publication is written by and for direct support professionals, bringing them timely information to help them provide better support. This publication is playing a vital role in enhancing the image and leadership of the direct support workforce.

In these efforts we are committed to carrying on the vision and challenge that John F. Kennedy, Jr. left with us — “to transform chronic work problems into creative possibilities.”