Recently, the Chicago Tribune published a two-part series discussing abuse and neglect in CILAs (“community group homes”). Within part one it is suggested that because of the dire state of funding, agencies like ours (GCS) can only attract the sort of employee from whom we cannot expect high-quality and compassionate care. I find statements like this deeply troubling. DSPs are among the most valuable assets an agency can have. They are what ultimately determines the condition of the services we are able to provide. While it is true that funding for IDD services in the state of Illinois is gravely inadequate, DSPs can be highly compassionate, motivated, hard working, and talented long-term employees.
In fact, in my world, this is the norm! Everyday I see GCS staff members who really care about the persons they support. I see DSPs developing true personal relationships with the persons we serve. I know I am not alone in noticing this. It is common at the end of tours with prospective consumers for their loved ones to say “WOW, your staff really seem to enjoy being here and spending time with the people they support!” These relationships and that type of work satisfaction can only come about if you’re in it for the right reasons and the long haul.
This is not made possible because GCS has some secret financing scheme. We believe that every individual has untapped gifts, and until they find employment in an environment that truly values them and lifts them up, only then will that person cultivate and harvest those gifts.
Across my 14 years at GCS, and over 40 years working with persons with disabilities in Illinois, I have seen many direct care staff obtain certifications and degrees, move up to leadership positions, and who routinely go the extra mile for those they serve.
There are many areas where services for persons with disabilities can be improved, and that’s why we’re all still here working hard every day. Let us also shine light on those things that are going right. In my next few posts, I’ll be sharing some of those wonderful stories and experiences with you, as well some of the reasons behind those successes.