In my last post I mentioned that I wish that we could pay Lauren’s staff better and that her budget didn’t allow for that. Providers also do not receive enough funding to pay Direct Support Professionals appropriately. Think of the duties that DSPs perform. They are responsible for individuals that for the most part cannot provide their own care. The DSP provides a full range of care, the intensity of which depends on an individual’s level of disability. They may be guiding an individual through every aspect of their day or they may be dressing, feeding, grooming, and providing all manner of personal care including toileting or diaper changing and bathing. They oversee medication, health status, transportation, activities, and promote inclusion in the community. They must respect an individual’s right to privacy, personal choice, and cultural differences. They must possess the skill necessary to help an individual communicate their needs and desires and may need to provide the support that will enable an individual to be employed. They must know how to deal with a myriad of behaviors and protect the individual as well as themselves. They must keep records and complete reports. And, they often fill the role of friend, confidante, or substitute parent when needed.
Lauren’s staff’s duties include: feeding, dressing, grooming, bathing, toileting, transfers, transportation, meal preparation, activity coordination, and range-of-motion exercises. They help Lauren interact with the community and help her communicate. They must be observant of her physical needs and always be prepared for seizures. And, they are the only other people in her life on a daily basis, besides her parents. They are her friends.
Fortunately for us, the staff that we currently have are enthusiastic, creative, and caring women. They are constantly coming to me with ideas for activities, new food options, and questions to help them understand Lauren and their jobs better. They are my eyes, and ears, and heart as Lauren tries to live a life restricted by so many challenges. I place my vulnerable, dependent only child in their hands everyday and they have earned my trust and confidence in their abilities. Lauren needs to be able to pay these women a salary that recognizes the important role that they play in her life. DSP salaries need to reflect the skills they require and the level of care that they provide.
Thanks to CareerBuilder.com I’ve been able to do some research on national average yearly incomes. According to CareerBuilder the national average yearly income for a DSP is $20,700. I put together a comparison of some other jobs and their national average yearly incomes. It is very interesting.
Construction Flagger $27,800
Grocery Clerk $25,700
Fast Food Worker $19,800
Convenience Store Clerk $23,800
Ticket Taker $23,200
Gas Station Attendant $25,700
Dog Groomer $28,700
Crossing Guard $26,500
Meter maid $30,700
In-store Greeter $25,300
Please bear in mind that these are national averages and may not be accurate for your particular geographic area, but using the national average is the easiest way to do a comparison. And what does this comparison show? Direct Support Professionals do not receive payment for their work commensurate with the level of support that they provide. We need to be attracting caring, motivated individuals to rewarding careers as DSPs. We will never do that at a pay rate that does not allow them to support themselves or their families. Individuals with developmental disabilities are struggling to be valued citizens included in their communities. That struggle will not end if the people that support them are not appreciated and respected as well.