2021 Direct Support Professional Recognition Week Reflections

by | Sep 22, 2021 | News

As we conclude another year of National Direct Support Professional Recognition Week, I would like to extend our thanks and gratitude to all the people with disabilities, family members, agency managers and elected officials for the support, recognition and kindness extended to America’s direct support professionals.

The NADSP’s social media platforms – including Facebook and Twitter – were filled with photographs of celebrations, gift baskets and good cheer. We shared several governor proclamations, newspaper editorials, virtual and in-person conferences that celebrate and spread this critically important work. This year, more than ever, a bright light shined upon on a workforce so desperately in need of recognition. We thank you all for shining this light and showing this appreciation.

Looking Beyond National DSP Recognition Week

But the days following Direct Support Professional Recognition Week always gives me time to pause and reflect on how little is known about direct support professionals outside of our “bubble”. How some DSPs work for organizations that do nothing to recognize them. How many DSPs struggle to do their jobs with inadequate resources, dangerously low staffing ratios and a revolving door of co-workers who are unprepared to support people with highly complex needs in their most intimate of personal, medical, and emotional supports.

Today, with discussions at the highest levels of government and, potentially a once in a generation financial investment into the “caregiving economy”, we have before us a unique opportunity to do more than recognition. It is our collective responsibility to make sure that policymakers do not squander this opportunity and to remind them that there is no magic wand that can be waved to make these issues disappear. Money alone will not fix the systemic issues confronting our direct support workforce. It will require a myriad of strategies that begin with a living wage for all workers and career ladder opportunities so those who commit to this as a long-term career can earn even higher wages as they objectively demonstrate advanced skills and ethics.

In the coming weeks and months, the NADSP will be hosting virtual public policy training sessions to help DSPs design and share their stories to decision makers. These efforts will culminate in early 2022 with our first-ever Direct Support Professional Policy Forum where we will mobilize and share evidence about the experiences of the direct support workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic and to inform efforts to better prepare for future waves of this pandemic.

So, thank you for the much-deserved recognition of direct support professionals during the past week, but we have a lot of hard work to do before us.

“So, thank you for the much-deserved recognition of direct support professionals during the past week, but we have a lot of hard work to do before us.”

- Joseph M. Macbeth, President & CEO, NADSP

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