The Direct Support Workforce: An Examination of Direct Support Professionals and Frontline Supervisors During COVID-19


Direct support professionals (DSPs) and frontline supervisors (FLSs) have critical roles in home and community-based services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Low wages and high levels of responsibility created a long-term crisis in recruitment and retention and are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. A national sample of DSPs and FLSs were compared on demographics and work-related circumstances using data from the third Direct Support Workforce COVID-19 Survey. Significant differences were found in demographics, hours worked, wages, wage augmentations, and quality of work-life. Policy recommendations to address the worsening workforce crisis are provided.

Suggested Citation

Pettingell, S., Bershadsky, J., Lahti Anderson, L., Hewitt, A., Reagan, J., & Zhang, A. (2023). The direct support workforce: An examination of direct support professionals and frontline supervisors during COVID-19. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 61(3), 197–210.


Peer-Reviewed Article 
Volume 61, Number 3
American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities


  • Direct support workforce
    • Retention and recruitment
  • Health and safety
    • Emergency/disaster preparedness