The Most Alarming Consequences


Video: Invaluable: The Unrecognized Profession of Direct Support1

“The most alarming consequence of high turnover, and the most highly publicized, is the abuse and neglect that results on relying on unqualified and poorly trained staff.”

Direct Support Professionals need better training. Most do not come to their jobs with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required of their roles. Federal regulations are largely silent about the preservice and in-service training required for DSPs to provide quality community support to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).2

At the state level, it is common for employers to provide a minimal number of preservice training hours (around 40) that focus on topics or basic skills that must be taught within a certain number of hours post-hire (e.g., CPR, first aid, documentation, blood-borne pathogens) and at regular intervals after hire. Rarely is engaging, interactive, competency-based training required or expected. Yet, we know far too well that research-based knowledge, sophisticated skills, and high ethical standards are required of DSPs to be effective in their jobs. Over the past several decades many sets of national and state DSP-specific competencies have been identified and refined.2

Viewing DSPs as replaceable low-wage workers makes them easier to dismiss. Greater awareness and understanding of the work of DSPs, and the value that people with disabilities bring to our communities, is desperately needed, in order to create a strong and professional and valued workforce.

DSPs make a DIFFERENCE every day. What can we do to make a difference to support their education and professional development?

Invaluable: The Unrecognized Profession of Direct Support is a documentary film by he Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota exploring the underappreciated and underfunded work of direct support professionals (DSPs), the people who support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in living full lives as members of their communities. Through stories and interviews with DSPs, family members, advocates, and people with disabilities from across the country, the film honors the complexity of the work and the immense value it provides to individuals receiving support. And it asks us to take action now in strengthening the DSP workforce before the system collapses. Read more about “Invaluable” here.


  1. Invaluable: The Unrecognized Profession of Direct Support. Directed by Jerry Smith. Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota, 2019.
  2. Hewitt, Amy; Macbeth, Joe; and Kleist, Barbara. “The Direct Support Workforce Crisis: A Systematic Failure.” Impact, Volume 31, Number 1 Accessed September 2, 2019.
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