I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the dedicated DSPs who support individuals with I/DD across the state of Illinois in honor of National Direct Support Professional (DSP) Recognition Week. DSPs are the backbone of our community service system. Their daily support ensures that individuals live self-determined lives in their communities. Their work has been even more challenging, and valued, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you to all DSPs for your continued dedication, and commitment to the communities you serve.
I want to highlight the voices of our provider leadership who see the hard work each day and allow them to share their feelings about the work of DSPs in their organizations.
Joy Decker, Executive Director, Esperanza Community Services, Chicago
"During these very challenging times, we are even more appreciative for our CILA DSP staff. When we moved to a live-in model to limit exposure of COVID-19, several DSPs volunteered and worked tirelessly work around the clock to make sure our residents are safe, happy, and healthy. And not only is safety a priority, but the growth and progress of our adult participants is also at the heart of what our staff does each and every day. Our DSPs diligently work to ensure residents achieve independence, happiness, and a higher quality of life. They truly deserve all the praise in the world for what they do!"
Charlotte Hammond, President & CEO, Challenge Unlimited Inc., Alton
"DSPs epitomize the definition of 'Selfless' - concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with one's own well-being. DSPs are an integral part of meeting the needs of our disability community, we may set aside this week, but we salute them everyday for their selflessness. For Asia, a Challenge Unlimited DSP for the past 21 years being a DSP is not a job, it is a calling, a passion. She serves some of our most vulnerable individuals and is a fierce advocate. She builds bridges through relationships to help families and individuals connect. She touches hearts deeper than most of us can only imagine. Being a DSP is her superpower. In the words of one of our guardians: Asia serves with a loving heart. She comforts grieving parents and listens as they mourn the loss of their special child. She cries for those lost and is listed in their obituary as a special friend. She is part of our family and we are hers."
Andy Kistler, Executive Director, Community Support System, Teutopolis
"Our DSPs have stepped up to the plate in finding creative ways to assist the individuals we serve during COVID-19. They have provided arts and crafts, art classes, embraced virtual activities like online/Zoom Bingo & entertainment, provided socially distant outings to area points of interest, made music videos & dance videos, and provided an atmosphere where each person feels safe & loved throughout this pandemic. We are in uncharted times, but the DSPs have been resilient & steadfast in enhancing the lives of those who trust us with their care!"
Michael Glanz, CEO, Arc of the Quad Cities, Rock Island
"The Arc is fortunate for all our DSPs. One of our DSPs, Connie, has gone above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic. Connie was hired as a DSP when The Arc opened a new group in November of 2019. Early in the pandemic, the home was affected by Covid-19. Connie's experience and stamina really brought the home through the crisis. One of the individuals came back from the hospital very different and is now completely reliant on staff. Connie had the confidence to take on the changes in stride and helped staff be responsive to the individual's increased need. Connie landed in the right place at the right time! Connie also used her imagination to instruct the individuals under her care on how the virus spreads and what they could do to protect themselves."
Jillian Gonzalez, Senior Vice President, El Valor, Chicago
"During the pandemic, El Valor's residential DSPs have made the tough decision to move into several of our facilities to ensure the well-being and safety of our residents. These staff sacrifice daily to keep our residents safe, while still working hard to keep them actively engaged. As a result of their hard, El Valor's residents continue to grow and learn from despite the challenges of sheltering in place. Celebrating our DSPs for Recognition week resulted in a ABC7 story which you can find here!"
Greg O'Connor, CEO, Sparc, Springfield
"The work we do at Sparc is sacred. The DSP profession demands a range of personal qualities rather than expertise. There are no specific demands for the position of DSP to possess any particular skill set, only that you must possess a level of passion and trust--qualities that each DSP does readily. Simply stated, OUR DSP'S CARE! Unlike most professions, the daily expectations placed upon this unique group of professionals is a trust of life-- maintaining and enhancing the livelihood of those we have promised to support. We would not survive without them."
"From Praise to Promise" Virtual Event
Finally, I want to encourage everyone to check out the "From Praise to Promise" virtual event that is hosted by the NADSP and the Research and Training Center on Community Living from the Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota. Throughout the week there will be keynotes, breakouts and panel presentations ranging from recognition and gratitude for DSPs, to sessions on the concrete steps and proven best practices that can be implemented across the human services field. This virtual event is completely free and kicks off this evening! You can see the schedule and register for individual sessions here.
Thanks, again, to all our providers and DSPs here in Illinois. We appreciate you and thank you for all you do!
Director, Division of Developmental Disabilities