Skip to main content

A celebration of DSPs


CAPTION: Direct Support Professionals Raven Bennett (left) and Julia Taylor (right) pose with Geraldine Roe. Raven and Julia are just two of the many DSPs who help individuals cultivate personal growth, connection and self-reliance.

Crucial caregivers empower, make difference in lives of many individuals

Citizen Advocates celebrates National Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week, Sep. 10 to 16, and the essential role Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) fulfill in empowering individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live healthy lives of their own choosing.

“Our DSPs are vital to the advancement of Citizen Advocates’ mission of making lives better,” said Kati Jock, Vice President & Chief Operations Officer of Citizen Advocates. “These skilled and compassionate individuals perform challenging and personalized work 24 hours a day, meeting a broad range of needs for the people we support and their families.”

Building connection

Citizen Advocates’ DSPs work in residential settings, site-based day programs and community-based services across the agency’s seven-county base in Northern New York. They are the conduits who help individuals cultivate personal growth, connection and self-reliance. Whether through physical care, participating in recreational activities, teaching social skills or developing job skills in community settings, DSPs witness someone else’s growth and transformation firsthand.

“Seeing someone succeed at something they’ve been working on for a long time is so rewarding. There are lots of little moments of ‘this is why I do this job,’” said direct support professional Emma LeClair. “I just really enjoy the environment that Citizen Advocates has.”

Working as a DSP allows one the opportunity to meet individuals of all ages from all walks of life. Each individual served by Citizen Advocates is unique and each DSP must be able to cultivate a successful relationship based on trust and understanding. This requires patience, emotional-intelligence, resilience and the ability to solve problems efficiently while aiding someone else.

Stepping stone to a career in healthcare

For these reasons, working as a DSP can be an impactful entry point to a career as a health professional, therapist, nurse or doctor. In fact, many members of Citizen Advocates’ leadership team started their careers as DSPs.

professional headshot of Samantha Burgess

Samantha Burgess, Associate Director of Behavioral Health of Citizen Advocates.

“As a DSP, I saw how fulfilling it could be to affect change in someone else’s life, to encourage and support individuals through tough times and new opportunities,” said Citizen Advocates’ Associate Director of Behavioral Health Samantha Burgess. “Those lessons guided me when I became a therapist and now as a member of Behavioral Health leadership, supporting those who are on the front lines of making lives better.”

To hear more about Ms. Burgess’ career journey from DSP to Behavioral Health leadership, click here to view Citizen Advocates’ 2022 Impact Report video.

“Our workforce is our greatest asset and DSP Recognition Week is one of the many ways we say thank you to our frontline staff,” said Ms. Jock. “Our DSP starting wage ranges from $16 to $22 per hour, with opportunities for advancement. We have also expanded our dental, vision and life insurance benefits and introduced flexible holiday and new paid time off policies—all to better support our workforce.”

Interested in starting a career as a health professional or embarking on a second career? Citizen Advocates is hiring direct support professionals with full-time and part-time shifts available. To learn more about becoming a direct support professional, click here.