To professionalize the direct support workforce

Initiatives at RTC are transforming a career path

Amy Hewitt wants to professionalize the direct support workforce.

Amy Hewitt photo Amy S. Hewitt

RTC Director

Over 2.5 million people in the United States provide direct support to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Direct support professionals (DSPs) are expected to exhibit competency in a job that is extremely demanding, offers limited recognition, and requires extensive skill and autonomy, all with little training and at wages comparable to the fast food industry. Because of these factors job turnover averages 50%, a tremendous hardship for organizations and devastating for the people who receive services and supports.

DSP turnover averages 50 percent
Direct support turnover averages 50 percent
“Early in my career I helped open group homes for people coming out of institutions. It didn’t take long for me to realize that we needed bright, well-trained staff if people were going to be successful living in the community.”

Hewitt, director of the Research and Training Center on Community Living, has worked extensively on direct support workforce development for over 25 years. Accomplishments include co-founding the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals, developing the Code of Ethics, a guide for DSPs as they resolve ethical dilemmas, and authoring dozens of publications on staff recruitment and retention strategies. In 2002, Hewitt led the development of the College of Direct Support, a nationally recognized online training program. This competency-based training curriculum has resulted in more than 750,000 DSPs completing over eleven million hours of training.

College of Direct Support grapic
A recent study showed organizations using the College of Direct Support experienced an average 16% reduction in staff turnover.

"The quality of services and supports for people with disabilities are dependent on the competence and ethical decision-making of direct support professionals." The time has come for DSPs to become recognized, appreciated, credentialed, and well-paid professionals with career paths in community human services.

Amy Hewitt presenting at a conference

Contact Information

Institute on Community Integration

102 Pattee Hall, 150 Pillsbury Dr SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455

P: 612-624-6300 | F: 612-624-9344

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