The 2021 edition of Kindred Stories of Disabilities focuses on the experiences of direct support professionals (DSP). Across the country, there are approximately 1.4 million individuals who require services from DSPs to live full, meaningful lives in their communities. And unfortunately, the DSP workforce is in crisis. There are high turnover and vacancy rates, issues with tenure, burnout, and low hourly wages that contribute to a nationwide shortage of DSPs. Add to this list, the COVID-19 pandemic, which is only influencing an increase to the challenges and shortages.
At the same time, the stories from DSPs highlight how dedicated, caring, and skillful successful DSPs tend to be. Many of the individuals who were interviewed became DSPs because they knew someone or had a family member with a disability. Some refer to and think of the people with disabilities they work with as “family.” Most say working as a DSP brings real meaning to their lives.
Coupled with photographs provided by AbleVoices, the stories in this booklet show the impact DSPs have in the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and also show the value DSPs find in fulfilling this essential role.
The booklet will be available electronically by March 1, 2021. To view past and current online Kindred Stories collections from Tennesseans with disabilities, please visit vkc.vumc.org/kindred.