Frontline Initiative Credentialing
Maine PASA Becomes an NADSP State Chapter
At the beginning of my career as a Direct Support Professional (DSP), the people I supported were totally dependent on staff for activities of daily living. Often, staff would stay long enough to become familiar with the likes, dislikes, and things that brought joy to the lives of the people we supported. Then they would find another job and the cycle of new staff would begin again. I researched what I could do to lower the turnover rate. In my search, I stumbled onto the National Alliance of Direct Support Professionals (NADSP), and thought, “Wow, someone is doing something about quality supports.”
At the time, there were no associations in Maine representing direct care or support workers. At this time, NADSP was creating their Code of Ethics. They asked people to vote on items which most closely described their individual ethics. Shortly thereafter, NADSP’s Amy Hewitt came to the DSP conference in Bangor, Maine to talk about the development of the Code of Ethics. After meeting her, I became actively involved in the NADSP, including being on the steering committee.
My employer at the time was very supportive about getting a DSP group going in the state. They provided me with resources like meeting space and whatever other support they had to offer. Unfortunately, I just didn’t have any experience or knowledge to really get a group going.
A few years later, I met Elise Scala from the Muskie Institute for Public Policy here in Maine at a Speaking Up for US (SUFU) self-advocacy conference. She introduced herself and proposed the idea of getting a group going again. She invited me to a breakfast to discuss the formation of what would become the Maine Personal Assistance Services Association, or Maine PASA. Then, seven people who had been at this meeting began to develop the framework for PASA.
NADSP is an organization of and for direct support professionals. It was recently organized into a nonprofit organization to further its mission. About a year ago, NADSP began inviting groups to join as state chapters and affiliates. The requirement for membership was that each chapter had to take on a couple of the goals that the NADSP Board had laid out in their strategic plan.
At a meeting this spring, Maine PASA members voted to join NADSP as a formal state chapter, focusing on advocacy for a voluntary credentialing process. We encourage DSPs to attain a knowledge level in the field that will earn them professional recognition through a formal credential. It’s essential that we change public perception about the skill level required for this profession. Providing a formal credential lets people know that being a DSP requires a high level of skill.
Being part of the formation process was a significant learning experience for me. It’s remarkable to watch a disjointed group of people unite into a front advocating for more respect professionally, better pay, and most importantly, quality support for individuals with disabilities.