Creating a National Network of Support at the Reinventing Quality Conference

By Sara Porcaro | Aug 30, 2022
Conference, Rhode Island, Disabilities, Work, Accessibility, Professional Development, Advocacy
Kim, Alicia, and Kelsey at the Reinventing Quality conference in Baltimore

This summer, farther along the east coast in Baltimore, professionals from all over the country came together for three days of connection and conversation among human services professionals. The Reinventing Quality conference, held in person for the first time since the pandemic, saw all manners of agencies come to discuss best practices, better services, and the crisis that has swept the nation since the pandemic (and before it, too): the shortage of Direct Support Professionals. And who better to discuss the issue than a DSP themselves?
That's why Perspectives DSP Alicia Babcock-Raposo, with COO Kim Einloth and Director of Quality Assurance Kelsey Collins there to support her, took to the stage for the Keynote Address--and why her testimony added a key voice to the conference.
"Alicia did an amazing job speaking at the Keynote Address and representing the work of DSPs," Kim says. "Lots of people approached her afterwards to tell her that they agreed with the things she said and the experiences she shared; her perspective was valuable."
"I didn't know what to expect, honestly," Alicia admits. "I didn't realize I'd be the center of attention, but I just focused on the person asking the questions and did my best.
The Reinventing Quality conference, hosted every other year, is one sponsored this summer by Philadelphia Coordinated Healthcare and LifeCourse Online. With the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR), and the University of Minnesota Research Training Center on Community Living making up just a few of the many organizations that helped bring this conference together, it was clear from the start that it would be a productive, inspiring, and all around enjoyable event for like-minded and passionate professionals. With Alicia there as the only DSP, however, she brought to the table the very core of the conference meeting: how agencies, and their management, can best support DSPs.
"We're at a crisis level with staffing," Kim notes, "and it's a problem that won't go away unless we do something about it. But to do that, we need the voice of the DSPs themselves, and to have Alicia speak from her experience only highlighted the need for that representation."
"We need the voice of the DSPs themselves, and to have Alicia speak from her experience only highlighted the need for that representation."
"It was definitely a conference that had all the right people in the right place," says Kelsey, "and it felt really good knowing that everyone was there for a common mission."
For professionals like Kim, Kelsey, and Alicia, this conference was another opportunity to continue the work they've been doing within the agency for quite some time: finding ways to help attract, support, and retain professionals to bring high-quality supports to individuals. With experts like Dr. Amy Hewitt of the University of Minnesota working with Perspectives to address areas of improvement, it was good to also have her expertise at the conference, alongside other seasoned industry professionals, to discuss the issues that human services agencies are facing together. They're problems that, due to state funding issues and other roadblocks, has effected not only Perspectives, but agencies across the US--and while it's a problem no one wants to have, it's also one that brought everyone together in feelings of solidarity as they listened to professionals share the data in various breakout sessions.
"The unfortunate thing is feeling like we always have to struggle for funding or staff," Alicia says. "But this conference was all about finding ways to fix that, and there were a lot of good ideas for what agencies themselves can do in the meantime to help their staff."
After three days of conferencing, networking, and enjoying the beauty of Baltimore, Kim, Kelsey, and Alicia returned home with not only great memories, but a whole new set of information and ideas on how to continue improving the situation for the agency. One such idea is finding ways to get DSPs more involved with exactly this kind of thing: local and national conferences to share their experiences and make their voices heard. All three of them highly recommend the Reinventing Quality conference, which will come again in the next two years--and Alicia herself has an eye on an upcoming conference specifically for DSPs. All in all, it was an experience that let them bring back crucial things: the information to continue improving, the assurance that Perspectives is already applying many of the best practices recommended, and some hearty enthusiasm to keep fighting for change. A wonderful experience all around!


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