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A state-wide initiative aimed at improving the skills and competency of people who support individuals with disabilities has been embraced by employees of The Resource Center, with 18 staff members achieving national certification during the program’s first three months.
The Resource Center was selected to participate in a state-wide pilot project that will increase the number of employees who are credentialed by the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP). Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are people who provide hands-on supports to individuals with disabilities.
NADSP and the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities entered into an agreement with a goal of increasing the number of DSPs who possess NADSP certification. Grants were established to give human-service organizations the opportunity for their employees to pursue certification through the NADSP E-Badge Academy, without having to pay the associated costs. Through the E-Badge Academy, employees earn electronic badges that affirm their knowledge, skills and competencies relating to the DSP Code of Ethics. The E-Badge Academy makes it possible for employees to work toward their certification online, at their own pace.
Organizations across the state were invited to submit proposals to be included in the pilot project. The Collaborative of NY — which is composed of 11 chapters of The Arc New York — was one of 17 organizations whose proposals were chosen for the project. NADSP and OPWDD hope more than 800 people will achieve certification in the first year.
The Resource Center is a member of The Collaborative of NY, so DSPs and front-line supervisors at TRC are eligible to take part in the pilot project. In the first few months of the pilot, the Collaborative and TRC have seen a good response from employees interested in obtaining NADSP certification. Through March, the Collaborative of NY has had 34 different employees earn 52 different certifications. At TRC, 18 employees earned a total of 30 certifications during the first quarter of the year.
National certification enables employees to demonstrate and refine their skills. There are several levels of NADSP certification, and staff at TRC receive increases in their pay as they progress through the various levels. Through the pilot project, employees also are eligible for bonuses awarded from NADSP. The 18 TRC employees who achieved certification during the first quarter of the year will be awarded collectively $20,750 in bonus dollars, in addition to the stipends they receive from The Resource Center.
Through the process of having TRC staff achieve NADSP certification, some unexpected benefits have arisen. As an example, a change has occurred among several employees at TRC’s Edgewater Day Habilitation Program.
“A positive cultural shift has occurred among the employees at Edgewater participating in the NADSP E-Badge Academy,” said Wendy Doutt, Program Supervisor. “It has built better communication, positive atmosphere, teamwork, support and encouragement from previous E-Badge participants, and the feeling of excellence. There’s excitement when anyone receives a badge or a certification.”
“Casey, Kevin, and Meghan are dedicated and are proud of how much they have accomplished,” Wendy added.
TRC staff first had the opportunity to participate in the E-Badge Academy in summer 2020, and since then dozens of DSPs and front-line supervisors have obtained their NADSP certification.
“The NADSP E-Badge Academy provides an opportunity for direct support professionals and frontline supervisors to reflect upon their body of work with regards to acting with intention and purpose,” said Don Traynor, Staff Development Specialist. “Many veteran learners in the EBA have commented on how it has both been a conduit for them to look at their application of skills in a new way while also reinforcing many things they have done well for many years. Newer DSPs find it valuable because it helps support skills development that are in alignment with contemporary best practices and our Code of Ethics.”
Don said NADSP certification fosters deeper appreciation of the direct support role and results in the provision of better supports.
“Certification also helps support the validation of a widely anonymous professional body of practitioners across the nation, the DSP,” he said. “It promotes greater job quality and job satisfaction and assists DSPs in developing a career path in a vocation they love. Focus on values, skill, and competencies helps enhance retention and, most importantly, increases the quality of service provided to the people we support.”
TRC officials hope additional staff members will take advantage of the opportunity to achieve NADSP certification through the pilot project.
“National certification elevates the direct support profession and will assist with recognition of this job classification in New York State. Validated skills of DSPs and front-line supervisors help to instill confidence to the people we support, their families, our funders, and the community in the supports and services we provide,” said Michele Albaugh, Director of Staff Learning & Development and Agency Facilitation. “We are excited about supporting TRC staff in this initiative and congratulate those who have achieved certification.”
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