Moving Mountains Best Practices
2008 Award Winner

Miami Cerebral Palsy Residential Services, Inc. (MCP)

An affiliate of United Cerebral Palsy of South Florida, Miami, Florida

Miami Cerebral Palsy Residential Services (MCP) is an agency that provides medical, educational and residential supports to individuals with developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy, and significant medical risk factors. MCP’s services are offered in a multicultural environment, which poses both challenges and exciting opportunities for training DSPs and frontline supervisors who are central to the agency’s success. The Moving Mountains award is being presented based on MCP’s commitment to the professional development of a highly diverse workforce, utilizing the College of Direct Support training methods. MCP’s efforts reflect best practices in workforce development for DSPs and frontline supervisors by engaging DSPs in the planning process, promoting professional credentialing, recognizing DSP’s professional development achievements, and aligning agency policy with training goals. 

Engaging DSPs in professional development planning 
MCP has developed a DSP advisory committee, comprised of DSPs who work in sites agency-wide. This committee has played an important role in giving feedback on training issues such as, including the College of Direct Support (CDS) in the agency’s training curriculum. By soliciting feedback from a pilot group of DSPs, and by placing high value on DSP feedback on training matters, MCP has promoted a collaborative learning environment, in which DSPs are supported in their learning needs and where DSP skills are strengthened through competency based training. 

Promotion of DSP credentialing 
Among the greatest focus areas in MCP’s professional development efforts is the promotion of professional credentialing for DSPs. DSPs use CDS as a training tool beginning at orientation, setting the tone for the centrality of training for MCP’s frontline staff. Using CDS, DSPs at MCP are assigned at least 200 credit hours of training, in order to achieve the training standards for Direct Support Professional-Certified, which are established by NADSP. Before reaching this milestone, however, all staff at MCP are guided through NADSP’s baseline credentialing process to become recognized as Direct Support Professional-Registered (DSP-R). This credentialing process has resulted in a clear career ladder for DSPs working at MCP. Among MCP’s achievements in the area of professional credentialing are-

  • Technology upgrades and employee schedules have been structured to allow DSPs to complete CDS training on work time.
  • More than 150 DSPs and frontline supervisors have either completed or are in the process of completing the 16 assigned interactive learning modules contained in CDS.
  • As of May 2008, 75 DSPs had achieved official credentials from NADSP at the DSP-R level. This number is steadily increasing.
  • All supervisory staff have completed the interactive learning modules in the College of Frontline Supervision. They are also in the process of completing CDS lessons.
  • Intensive focus on professional development has led to increased competence in both direct support duties and advocacy roles that DSPs must take.

Employee recognition 
MCP has implemented a strong program for recognizing DSPs for their accomplishments in professional development. DSPs are publically recognized for their accomplishments with bulletin board announcements, at formal ceremonies, and financially. A financial incentive to reward the achievement of DSP-R status has been a particularly strong effort at recognition, since DSP compensation rates in Florida generally tend to be low. MCP’s recognition efforts have included –

  • An agency-wide recognition ceremony for DSPs who complete the initial training curriculum and achieve the DSP-R credential from NADSP.
  • A financial incentive upon the completion of the DSP-R credential.
  • Announcements of the professional development achievements of DSPs.
  • Ongoing efforts to secure the awarding of college credit through a collaboration with Miami-Dade Community College.
  • Initiation of NADSP in the state of Florida and formation of the Florida chapter through Florida Association for Rehabilitation Facilities.
  • DSP and executive director board representation on the Florida National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals. The Florida chapter has formed a training and workforce development committee which MCP in involved with. The committee is currently focused on investigating how the DSP credential might fit into the Department of Education – Florida’s Career Academy Structure which allows high school students to earn industry credentials and/or college credits.

Coordination of agency policies and procedures 
To gain consistency between its innovative professional development practices and agency policy, MCP has begun to revise its policy and procedure manuals to reflect its use of CDS and the promotion of credentialing that have made MCP a leader in workforce development. A committee consisting of different levels of MCP leadership has been formed to align policies, on-the-job training processes, and orientation schedules with CDS. This group has worked steadily and carefully to assure the close correspondence between official MCP documents, and the content of CDS.

Outcomes of workforce development initiatives 
As a result of MCP’s efforts to promote professionalism in its direct support workforce, a number of success indicators have been achieved.

  • The staff turnover rate for 2006-2007 was 24.5%, down from 48% prior to the systematic use of CDS.
  • There have been only two vacancies in MCP residential programs in the past year.
  • Increased training has led to greater competence and confidence, and stronger advocacy skills among DSPs.
  • The establishment of a viable career ladder has resulted in a stronger professional identity for DSPs at MCP and throughout Florida.
  • Supervisors comment on the increased skills of DSPs.
  • DSPs state that they feel more prepared for their work and more valued as professionals because of MCP’s strong focus professional development activities.
  • Universities, colleges and vocational schools are sending students to be mentored under MPC staff and program.
  • Ranked 94 in the Training Top 125 Companies in 2008 by Training Magazine for workforce training and development, training tied to business objectives, employee turnover and retention, leadership development, certification, tuition assistance, and much more.