I have strong connections to individuals with disabilities.
And, as a natural caretaker, I enjoy building relationships with people. I’m able to do that every day, and it all adds up to my ‘why’.
Over time, the work has become very personal to me, to help my clients be who they are and be treated with respect.
The best feeling is when we can help people get their lives back and they no longer need our services.
That sort of rewarding work has a ripple effect in your life.
Relationships, caregiving, and a rewarding career.
“I always knew I wanted to help people. But I didn’t know exactly what that looked like — maybe a teacher or working in early childhood education — but definitely doing something as a caregiver." - Jenny Shepperd
Jenny says Easterseals of Iowa — a nonprofit that serves individuals and families with disabilities and special needs — always had a special place in her heart for the services it provided to her relatives.
Now, as a direct service provider (DSP) with Easterseals of Iowa, Jenny has had many roles, from job coach to employment specialist. "There’s a certain humbleness I experience when I see my clients working so hard, enjoying this opportunity that many people take for granted," she says. “I’ve learned to be very patient and let the client be the boss."
Social justice in human services.
The value of serving under-represented populations
"My degree gave me a theoretical understanding of social justice and how we approach things as a population,” - Michael Johnston
Michael has had a lot of different jobs, from educator to job coach to waiter and bartender. He says each career gave him a chance to see and understand people. . . to learn their story. “When I was doing more work with adult basic education and addiction services, I saw how people interacted with marginalized populations and either coddled them or treated them with contempt," he says. "Over time, the work has become very personal to me, to help my clients be who they are and be treated with respect.”
He says he sees the work that still needs to be done to lift under-represented populations. Integrating his Humanities degree into his work in human services, Michaels says he sees himself staying in this rewarding field.
Improving quality of care, provider confidence with training and education.
“It’s a foot in the door to a world of opportunities, all focused on creating a higher quality life for people with disabilities. I can’t imagine doing any other type of work" - Bonnie McHugh
As more Iowans seek access to brain health (mental health) and disability services, Bonnie said she hopes to see more people joining the human services field. By growing the number of DSPs in the human services field within Iowa, she said we are planning for a better world.
"I’m proud to work for an agency where education is a core value," she says. Hands-on learning leads to fewer mistakes and a higher quality of care for clients.
“The health and human services field has a clear career path that many people don’t realize. There is a strong emphasis on training, which gives people the opportunity to move up, gain more skills and advance. Agencies see the talent in their own people and want to grow that,” says Bonnie.
Direct care providers going the extra mile.
“We are an essential part of residents’ daily life, regardless of whatever storm lies in front of us. My work is needed for my clients to survive. They are essential to me too, and the other staff members. They are the reason we do what we do." - Ada
Social isolation is a significant barrier for persons with disabilities in a typical year. The added stress of a pandemic made socialization even more difficult. Human service team members developed creative ways to keep clients connected to their community and receiving services in their home.
Ada is a frontline supervisor working with a team of direct support professionals who support Iowans experiencing intensive disabilities and medical conditions requiring 24/7 support.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ada and her team worked longer hours to ensure the health and safety of their team members and the clients they serve. Some direct support professionals even moved in with some of the most at-risk clients to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread.
The direct support professionals provided a familiar face and structure when everything else felt so uncertain.