A fledgling association dedicated to recognizing and promoting the efforts of direct support workers across the province has a new name.
The Alliance of Direct Support Professionals of Manitoba (ADSPM) was the name chosen by members at a strategic meeting held Nov. 6 in Winnipeg. It replaces the Manitoba Alliance of Direct Support Professionals (MADSP), the name originally chosen when the association was formed in May 2013.
ADSPM Vice-President Sandy Kauenhofen says the change was made to promote a more positive and professional image for the association and its members.
“I think there was some thought in the province that the [previous] acronym had some negative connotations, both in terms of the way people think of support professionals and the people who we are here to serve,” says Kauenhofen, a coordinator with Epic Opportunities. “We didn’t want [the name] to have those negative connotations.”
The name change was just one of several items discussed at the November meeting, which was attended by support professionals and board members as well as a number of advisers.
ADSPM members set a number of goals for the coming year including hosting a conference for direct support professionals, boosting membership numbers, improving communication and increasing its presence on the web and in social media. They also set a series of long-term goals including boosting rural membership, the establishment of additional training opportunities for support workers and to establish the organization as a credible source for public commentary and education.
Kauenhofen says an important part of the ADSPM’s mandate is to act as an advocate to address issues such as training, work environment, service coordination, staff turnover and fairer wages for members.
“I think having that one voice we will be better [positioned] to promote the importance of the work we do in the human services field,” she says.
The November session was the first opportunity for ADSPM board members to meet with the membership since the association’s inaugural annual general meeting last May. They provided updates on the board’s efforts since that meeting including a formal business plan, the introduction of a mission and values statement and the creation of a Facebook page.
The ADSPM has signed up about 140 members to date and Kauenhofen says increasing that number is vital to the alliance’s future.
“It’s a good start but there are still a lot of people to reach. We would love to eventually have all direct support professionals be part of the alliance. We’ve got to get the word out there about what the alliance is there for and what it’s all about.”
The ADSPM is the first successful attempt to create an association for direct support professionals. Previous attempts were largely unsuccessful because of a lack of interest and resources.
Janet Forbes, Executive Director of Community Living Winnipeg, was part of those initial discussions about the alliance and says she is pleased with how far ADSPM has come. Forbes said she hopes the association flourishes and that others embrace and promote it.
“A big issue for us is to attract more people to the field and influence government to enhance wages and look at what constitutes fair wages,” she says.
David Presonka, a residential representative for Epic Opportunities with the ADSPM, was also part of those early discussions. Presonka says he thinks it’s a great idea for support professionals to be part of an association that can inform the general public about the valuable work they do.
“We need to educate people about what we do,” says Presonka, a residential manager and former support worker. “Even if that’s the only thing that comes out of this then that’s a win for us. At least we know we now have a voice as a group.”
The ADSPM is currently involved in discussions with Abilities Manitoba on how the two groups can work together to achieve mutual goals.
The alliance’s next annual general meeting is scheduled for May in Winnipeg.