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SEEC’s Program Aims to Improve DSP Training In Maryland

Submitted By: Anna M Oldham, SEEC

The DSP-II Training Program was created by SEEC with support from a consortium of agencies and provides CMS competency-based DSP-II training to DSPs across Maryland. This five-month hybrid training combines dynamic live classes, self-paced online courses, and assignments designed to demonstrate competencies.
Live classes are discussion-driven and allow DSPs to jointly solve common scenarios while the online courses are based on the nationally recognized College of Direct Support’s online content, delivered through the Elsevier learning management system. To date, 226 learners have now completed the program.

Impact Of The Program

Most DSPs who have completed the program report higher confidence levels in their work, increased job satisfaction, and improved work/life balance. In surveys with those who achieved the DSP-II level, we found that they were also less likely to leave their agency or the DSP field than non-credentialed DSPs. At SEEC, DSP-IIs received a $1 per hour wage increase upon completion of the program.

“The DSP II Training Program champions the person-centered approach to supports. This focuses on empowering people that SEEC supports to lead their lives in the direction they’ve always dreamed it would go.”

Greg, Direct Support Professional

Through this program, SEEC’s retention rate of DSP-IIs is approximately 90%, with our data indicating that the training efforts have yielded $18.43 in economic returns for every $1.00 of initial financial investment. At SEEC and participating agencies, 75% of all family members surveyed responded that they believed the DSPs who have completed DSP-II competency training provided a high-quality level of supports to their family members with disabilities, as well as assisted their loved ones in accomplishing their person-centered goals.

Steps To Implement A Similar DSP Program

There are a number of specific actions that SEEC took to implement its DSP-II Training Program, which other organizations can use to introduce a similar initiative:

  1. SEEC formed a consortium of agencies to develop and deploy DSP-II and other training programs. The consortium includes SEEC, Ardmore Enterprises, Compass Inc., Jubilee Association of Maryland, Spring Dell Center, Maryland’s Developmental Disabilities Administration, the Maryland Association of Community Services, and Maryland Department of Labor.
  2. An MOU was created describing the commitments and responsibilities of participating agencies.
  3. Funding was obtained from the Maryland Department of Labor.
  4. SEEC developed curriculum, which was crosswalked with CMS competencies and included College of Direct Support content.
  5. Cohort 1 (pilot) of the program was held with 24 learners from five consortium agencies. Most learners held frontline supervisor and other administrative positions in order to be prepared to supervise future DSP-IIs and to provide feedback on the relevance, reliability, and practicality of content.
  6. A Curriculum Review Committee was created and made recommendations to items such as the number of lessons, feedback on activities, recommendation of class size, clarity of assignments etc.
  7. Mentoring curriculum was included in the first two cohorts but was then broken off into a separate program.
  8. Refinements of the program took place and most consortium agencies hosted or co-hosted cohorts. Learners from non-consortium agencies across Maryland began to be included.
  9. Train-the-Trainer curriculum was developed and piloted.
  10. Cohorts 7 and 8 shifted to virtual live classes due to the pandemic. Further refinements were made to curriculum and materials to adapt to the virtual (Zoom) environment.
  11. A website with course materials and resources was created and dubbed “The Learner Hub.” Technological training and support were also offered.
  12. In addition to continuing to offer the training, a current focus is expanding the Train-the-Trainer component and creating a “toolkit” for agencies to implement the program on their own.

“The training strengthens my work as a DSP by enabling me to better communicate with the person I support and staff members I work with.”

Tenneh, Direct Support Professional

There are a number of lessons that we learned throughout the process. It is essential that organizations form partnerships and adopt nationally-recognized competencies. Agencies must also develop curriculum based on those competencies and/or adopt existing evidence-based curriculum. For the learners, you must provide sufficient funding and staffing resources, along with a salary increase to those who complete the program. That sort of incentive is key to scaling up the program and replicating it elsewhere.

Challenges You May Encounter

There are some barriers you may encounter in establishing a similar training program. Of course, funding is always a priority concern and sustainable funding should be considered from the outset, in addition to short-term funding for development and piloting activities. In addition, administrative tasks are many and staff resources need to be appropriately designated from the start. This ties to the need for having a sufficient number of trainers available, since as the program expands it can be challenging. Finally, you must also actively seek out potential trainers and have a robust Train-the-Trainer program.

About SEEC

SEEC is a progressive nonprofit agency, headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, that provides a wide range of community supports to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities live lives of their choosing. SEEC aims to offer the highest caliber of community-based, person-directed services through ongoing learning and reflection, strategic planning, and investing in the professional development of staff members. Through collaborative work with Maryland agencies and providers, SEEC aims to affect policies and funding streams and expand staff development opportunities statewide.

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.