Logo of DSP Week 2021.

It took a crisis, on top of a crisis, but direct support professionals are making progress toward better wages, working conditions, and recognition in the wake of the pandemic, and next month’s recognition week in their honor will celebrate that progress.

The Institute on Community Integration will join the National Association for Direct Support Professionals in presenting From Promise to Progress, a virtual event from Sept. 12–15, coinciding with National Direct Support Professional (DSP) Recognition Week.

Pandemic-related issues worsened already crisis-level turnover and other issues in the DSP workforce, said Joseph Macbeth, NADSP’s president and chief executive.

“It’s been a challenging year for everybody, and it’s still challenging for DSPs working through the pandemic, but I’m more optimistic now than ever,” Macbeth said. “Workforce issues are being discussed at the highest levels, and we’re seeing legislation to address turnover, job satisfaction, and the career ladders of DSPs. That really is progress.”

The event will share specific insight about DSPs and actions they can take themselves to elevate the status of the profession, along with keynote presentations by Monica McCall, president and chief executive of Creative Options, Inc., and John Dickerson, founder and chief executive of myQuillo.

ICI Director Amy Hewitt, who worked as a DSP early in her career and who has since led significant research, training, and programs in the field, will discuss three national surveys of DSPs that the Institute has conducted in partnership with NADSP since early 2020.

“Capturing the responses of DSPs in the largest-ever surveys of the profession provides strong evidence for finally addressing wage equity with policymakers,” Hewitt said. “Their collective voices must be heard.”

The Institute’s Julie Kramme and Chet Tschetter will lead an interactive listening session to explore DSPs’ most pressing on-the-job issues. As the editors of Frontline Initiative, a publication by and for DSPs, they will share ways to get involved in writing articles about best practices and other important topics in the field.

“Our session takes FI readers and potential authors behind the scenes of creating an issue of the newsletter, and shows them how to raise issues that are important to their own professional development,“ Kramme said. 

Beyond individual professional development, participants will also identify issues that are important to the field as a whole. “We hope to talk about ways DSPs can help each other grow, and to highlight for the wider community the profound significance of their work with people with disabilities,“ Tschetter said.

Two important industry awards also will be announced shortly as part of the recognition week. The John F. Kennedy Jr. Award for Direct Support Workforce Advocacy & Leadership will recognize an individual who has demonstrated a distinguished career of excellence and leadership in support of NADSP’s mission to enhance the quality of support provided to people with disabilities. The first Dave Hingsburger Humanitarian Award also will be presented.