The Kansas College of Direct Support (CDS) became a reality this month following sustained effort by stakeholders to secure funding for this high quality online training for the direct support professional (DSP) workforce. Many people with developmental disabilities, whether living in their own homes, an apartment, a group setting, or with family rely on paid support workers, DSPs, to assist them with daily activities ranging from self care and homemaking to employment and community participation. DSPs are in the position to influence the quality of life for the people they support.
The 16 courses of the College of Direct Support have been developed by national content experts and are based on nationally validated competency sets and ethical guidelines. Hosted by MC Strategies, the CDS courses address core skill areas: Safety; Direct Support Professionalism; Maltreatment of Vulnerable Adults and Children; Teaching People With Developmental Disabilities; Supporting Healthy Lives; Introduction to Developmental Disabilities; Individual Rights and Choice; Cultural Competence; Community Inclusion; Introduction to Medication Support; Positive Behavior Support; Documentation; You’ve Got a Friend; Employment Supports; Person-centered Planning; and Personal Cares. Four courses are also available for supervisors. All courses are updated annually to assure they continue to reflect best practices.
Securing funding for CDS is the most recent accomplishment of Kansans Mobilizing for Direct Support Workforce Change, a group of stakeholders that came together under a KUCDD project in 2002. Committed to improving the DSP workforce, KMFC addressed several challenges related to the recruitment, training, and retention of DSPs. Participants have been effective in decreasing turnover and received national recognition for efforts in workforce change. After piloting the CDS and witnessing the growth in employees and experiencing the benefit of online training, KMFC members were instrumental in getting the Kansas legislature to fund the purchase of CDS for the state. A grant from the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services now makes CDS, the computer-based online training available to DSPs.
KMFC members identified the CDS courses as the related instruction component of the Ad Astra Direct Support Registered Apprenticeship Program. Although still in its infancy, Ad Astra is one of the first registered programs in the nation developed for DSPs. Apprenticeship is a step toward recognition of the profession and defining a career lattice and ladder for the DSP.
The Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities will serve as the administrator for Kansans using CDS. In this role, KUCDD will market CDS to providers who are unaware of this resource, as well as assist service providers and individuals to use the CDS to meet local training needs. The transition from face-to-face to online training is a major move for many employers. It often requires revisions of agency policies and training approaches. This project will also support the continued activities of KMFC and the apprenticeship program.
Kathy Olson serves as the director of this project. Kelly Perry provides assistance. Kathy is also a member of the National Advisory Board and National Board of Editors for the College of Direct Support.