Well the official title that these three letters stand for is Direct Support Professional, but is that really what we are? Or are we more? We are more; we are teachers, doctors, therapists, physical therapist, and nurses. Some may say friends and some may say not -that topic is still up for discussion. However, most of all we are advocates. We are the voices when there is not a voice. We are the protectors when there is an unsafe situation. We are the nudge on the shoulder pushing you forward when you feel like shying away. We are not just DSPs. We are so many different things. We wear many hats and we need to be heard. Not only do we need to be heard, we need to be recognized. Did you know we, as DSPs, do not even exist in this world as a recognized profession? Yes, we have titles and, yes, we get up every day, go to work, and do amazing things, but we are not considered a profession. Why? Because there is not a class you can take in college or a training school, you can attend to become a DSP. WE need to be the change, and you can be part of that by visiting www.change.org and signing this important petition: Establish a Direct Support Professional Standard Occupational Classification
It honestly was a shock to learn that just because I did not go to school to do the job I am doing that basically I am a ‘nothing’ in the eyes of so many. Let me throw a statistic at you: ¼ of DSP workers in the United States are immigrants. Immigrants get paid minimum wage and still love their jobs, because they have been taught by their cultures to love and respect ALL, especially their elders. They come in, do an amazing job, and do great things. Our culture should show similar respect and concern for all.
As we all know, technology has come a long way, but could you imagine having a camera installed in your home watching you all day? Can you imagine having question or support need and having to direct that need to someone who appears only a monitor? What quality of life can you have if a screen is your primary source of companionship and support? It is terrifying to me that this could be the new age. Do not get me wrong. Technological tools such as this can be great for some people who want to be independent and just need a quick check in here and there, but the people we support deserve to have friendly faces with them each day. They deserve to feel safe knowing they have that special person coming to spend quality time with them.
Here are the numbers that keep playing in my head: $2,800-$4,200.00. This is the cost to an agency each time a DSP leaves employment. While on the trip to St. Louise for the NADSP conference, some people said to me that it is almost easier to keep the people we support home than it is to have another failed DSP. This idea, that some of the people we support might have to stay home, literally breaks my heart, and the people we support are at risk of this given our field’s high turnover. Turnover happens for many reasons, some of which we can do something about:
Staff are UNDERPAID
Staff feel UNAPPRECIATED
Staff get BURNT OUT
Staff aren’t recognized as PROFESSIONALS
Staff members’ special qualities and strengths are not VALUED
We are held to very high performance standards, yet we are not paid well, taught enough, or known and valued by our communities. We are the unknown profession and that is a reality.
WE NEED TO CHANGE THIS AND WE NEED TO CHANGE THIS NOW!! Join me in this by visiting www.change.org today.
- A DSP who loves the job, Lindsey Wood