Frontline Initiative Changing Roles

Frontline Notes

This past Fall has been a trying time for our nation and for many of us individually. Our thoughts go out to those of you who were directly affected by the events of September 11, and to the on going struggles we all face as we adapt to a new understanding of the world. We profoundly respect, admire, and thank the hundreds of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who helped people with disabilities in New York City and Washington D.C. survive the terrorist attacks. Hundreds of people with developmental disabilities are survivors because of the competent, skillful and committed DSPs who ensured their safety. You are our community heroes.

As our President has asked us to do, we are going on to try and live our lives as normally as possible.

People with disabilities who we support still need our attention. DSPs still and will continue to provide a valuable service for this country — services which continue to are undergo dramatic change.

Large institutions were once the only place people with disabilities could find services. As the move towards smaller community settings occurred, so did a change in the practice of direct support. We came to believe that people with disabilities should be a part of their communities and that people with disabilities ought to lead a life similar to other adults in their communities. “Integration” and “normalization” became marks of quality community services, forever changing disability-related services. 

More change is underway. People with disabilities came to realize that living in a community wasn’t enough, nor was simply leading a “normalized” life. Control of the resources and services provided to people with disabilities came into question. It became clear to people with disabilities, their families, advocates and others, that until people with disabilities were able to make their own choices about the services they received and the way in which they lived their lives, their needs were not truly going to be met. These principles of best practice are switching focus to self-determination and consumer directed supports.

This is where you as DSPs are so critical. Without your skills, knowledge, relationships, and support of people with disabilities all of the great ideas in this field will never happen. In this issue of Frontline Initiative we address the changing roles of DSPs — from asking a person who receives services what they want, to hearing the stories of some agencies that have changed their practices. We will all also learn about the direct support profession in the People’s Republic of China, a situation which provides an interesting contrast to the activities here in the United States promoting direct support as an important profession, and also shows us there are many things we too still need to address in this profession.

Our next issue is about legislative advocacy — What is it and how do you do it? We will hear from DSPs that are taking action on their own behalf in their state Legislatures and learn what legislative actions have occurred and are pending which may impact DSPs.