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Children’s Aid and Family Services’ Training Program Supports DSP Development

Submitted By: Stephanie Hios, Children’s Aid and Family Services

The Cope Institute for Professional Success, developed by Children’s Aid and Family Services (CAFS), teaches, coaches, and educates direct support professionals (DSPs) and other staff members on areas of improvement while teaching fitness for performance in an academic enrichment environment. Areas of improvement include but are not limited to:

  • professional and appropriate communication skills
  • dressing for success
  • understanding expectations
  • local laws that require extensive understanding
  • workplace procedures
  • medical and behavioral needs training
  • crisis prevention and intervention
  • And more!

“I really enjoyed myself at this training! I feel that after the Cope Institute training, I would be able to use what I learned in the home when needed.”

Dachemia, Direct Support Professional

The trainings from the institute promote professional development in entry-level staff/employees that may have social, life skill, and education as core areas of improvement. For example, a current training we are developing is resume writing, to help our staff become professionally prepared for their next career step.

Impact Of The Program

The Cope Institute for Professional Success has provided Children’s Aid and Family Services’ Disability Support Services Programs a centralized place to host all trainings. We are in the midst of developing what we will call ‘training avenues,’ so that a full course catalog will be available for each employee to take in succession based on their job title.

The Cope Institute for Professional Success logo

In addition, having our training program ultimately leads to increased retention and opportunities to invest in our staff members’ education both inside and outside the classroom. The more training a DSP has access to and completes, the more educated they are on their responsibilities and expectations. CAFS wants all DSPs to master their role with the hopes that they will be able to advance in their career.

One of the goals of the Cope Institute is to not only hone in on the necessary information for DSPs to do well in their position, but to also provide them external opportunities for advancement outside of their job. Ultimately, a long-term goal would be to connect them with higher education if this were something they would like to pursue.

“The Cope Institute has allowed me to continue learning skills that I will need in this field. It has also provided resources in order to learn skills that will further my career and will hopefully help me become a manager one day.”

Latasia, Direct Support Professional

Steps To Implement A Similar DSP Program

Other organizations could replicate our efforts in developing specific training programs. We find that our DSPs learn best in the classroom with lots of engagement and relatable scenarios. Therefore, having a centralized location may help other organizations as well. If the organization does not have a centralized location, developing a virtual training program will also serve the purpose. This would help all DSPs have remote access to any trainings the program is offering.

Enlisting the help of all program employees to develop trainings on an area of expertise has also helped us to expand our areas of training. Compiling already existing trainings and improving them may be a good first step for organizations who do not have concrete training programs.

Here are the specific actions that Children’s Aid and Family Services took in developing the Cope Institute for Professional Success:

  1. The Disability Support Services leadership team met and identified core areas of training needs.
  2. A training room, located at our flagship building, was identified and renovated to host the trainings, which now includes the proper information technology, tables, chairs, and resources needed to train effectively.
  3. Curriculum was developed by the current Director of Training and Quality Systems in conjunction with feedback from the Disability Support Services leadership team.
  4. The first onboarding training was held in September 2020 through the Cope Institute for Professional Success and continued virtually through the pandemic. We have recently begun to host in-person trainings with all necessary sanitation measures in place.
Children’s Aid and Family Services logo

About Children’s Aid and Family Services

Children’s Aid and Family Services is one of northern New Jersey’s leading nonprofit providers of services that protect and support vulnerable children, adults, and families. The agency is focused on meeting ever-evolving social needs by expanding programs to help members of the community live their best lives.

Children’s Aid and Family Services strengthens families and empowers individuals – children and adults alike – to reach their fullest potential. The organization provides high-quality, innovative services to children, adults, and their families that advance social, educational, and emotional development and wellbeing.

2021 National DSP Recognition Week

For 2021 National DSP Recognition Week, CQL and NADSP are sharing specific organization-wide initiatives that lift up and bolster direct support professionals (DSPs) throughout the entire year. These include significant, long-lasting, and meaningful actions that have far-reaching effects on DSPs. By sharing these initiatives, other human service providers can both learn about and replicate these efforts to build up the DSP workforce. This is also an opportunity to highlight the programs your organization has developed to strengthen DSPs.

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Since 1969, CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership has been a leader in working with human service organizations and systems to continuously define, measure, and improve quality of life and quality of services for youth, adults, and older adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities. CQL offers accreditation, training, certification, research, and consultation services to agencies that share our vision of dignity, opportunity, and community for all people.