Frontline Initiative Credentialing

Heading Down the Right PATHS in Ohio!


Robin Parent

Chris Kraley

Neil Ferencak

PATHS is an innovative program that is creating a career path for direct support professionals (DSPs) in Ohio. PATHS began in 2001 as an initiative of the Ohio Alliance of Direct Support Professionals and has received funding from the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, the Ohio State Apprenticeship Council, and the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, as well as significant in-kind support from provider agencies, family members, advocates, and self-advocates. To learn more about PATHS, go to

Below are profiles of Ohio DSPs who have completed the credentialing program. They reflect on what drew them to the credentialing program and how their work has changed as a result.

Robin Parent

Robin Parent is a home manager and DSP at Champaign Residential Services, Inc. She went through the PATHS credentialing program and completed the Certificate of Initial Proficiency (CIP). Robin was initially interested in the credentialing program because she wanted to educate herself further and to better serve the individuals that she supports now and in the future. The program gave her a closer look – and some perspective – at her daily work. She put what she learned both into practice and into writing so other DSPs can also benefit from it. She says, “I have always taken pride in my work, but I am now able to express that to others and give them a true sense of what I do.”

For Robin, the credentialing program has given her a clearer view of how she would like to proceed with her education. She hopes to specialize in dual diagnoses and/or developmental disabilities and the justice system. Participating in the credentialing program has improved her already-positive attitude and her awareness about how she works, “I am continuously more aware of what I do and how I respond.” In human services, Robin believes it is important to have a passion and desire to help others grow. The credentialing program helps insure you are dedicated to what you do – that it’s not “just a job.” Through the program, Robin also learned something new about herself, that when she speaks to groups, they can feel her passion for her job and understand what she is talking about.

Robin Parent, Home Manager, DSP, CIP

Chris Kraley

As a nurse and DSP, Chris Kraley entered the PATHS program with a home care background supporting people with disabilities and those recovering from illness. She completed the certificate program because it emphasized the importance of direct support care and offered a “package that provides educational support for employees.” In particular, Chris said she learned the importance of maintaining the same staff over time. The program also reinforced what she already knew, such as the value of the NADSP Code of Ethics.

The PATHS program prompted Chris to re-examine her career goals. It also inspired her to better educate herself and to make a greater difference in the lives of the people she supports. The program has given Chris confidence in knowing she is not alone. It showed her a group of positive DSPs who want to maintain high standards. She believes DSPs often get a bad rap and think their opinions don’t matter. “This program helped me to make my voice heard, speak up, and contribute,” she states.

Chris talks about the program with the people she supports and other DSPs and tells them about her experience and the educational benefits. She knows everyone can learn and everyone needs continuing education so she encourages other DSPs to find out more about PATHS. In Chris’s experience, it is important to network, increase skill level, learn new things, and try new opportunities.

Overall, Chris thought the program was very good and especially liked the portfolio piece. She thinks it is important for the people she supports to participate in some way and know that their employees care; the people she supported were excited when she told them about the program. Chris also admired the agencies involved in the program because they went out of their way to explain issues and answer questions. And last but not least… Chris had fun!

Chris Kraley is a DSP and nurse. She holds a Certificate of Initial Proficiency from the PATHS Program.

Neil Ferencak 

Neil Ferencak, a “Find a Way Direct Support Assistant” at LADD, Inc., completed the PATHS Program at the Certificate of Initial Proficiency (CIP) and Certificate of Advanced Proficiency (CAP) levels. After six years as a DSP, Neil decided to enter the credentialing program at his supervisor’s recommendation. The idea of a direct support credential and putting standards into practice in the field appealed to him. Neil feels that the biggest change in his work since earning his credentials is that he has more options and ideas to help him deal with situations when they occur. Neil stated that the health and safety of the individuals he works with are always at the forefront, but going thorough the program has instilled in him the idea that he and others can take chances to find out what works instead of just providing the same services that may not be what the individual really wants or needs.

Because of his participation in the PATHS Program, Neil has become very confident in sharing best practice in all aspects of supporting an individual’s life. For Neil, the PATHS program brought together many skilled and dedicated professionals. These experiences provided him with ideas about how to look at situations and deal with them in the most appropriate and creative way. When reflecting on the credentialing program’s impact on his career, Neil says it strengthened his love for working directly with people. The PATHS credential makes Neil feel he grasps all aspects of life for an individual with a disability. This gives him confidence and good ideas about how to deal with common situations, while stressing the importance of ethical and respectful everyday interactions with those he supports.

Neil’s personal incentives for completing the PATHS CIP and CAP credential include providing more professional and complete services to all individuals. He believes that a credentialing program is very important and that embracing standards can only help people working in this field and lead to better services for people with disabilities.

Neil Ferencak is a Find a Way Direct Support Assistant at LADD, Inc.