Archive for May, 2008

Voices Institute Graduates – May the Roots Thrive!

Posted by on May 28th, 2008 at 2:56 am | 3 Comments »


attendees of the first VIWe just completed another historic and successful step forward for the movement to empower direct care workers and to fix our broken long-term care system!

It is clear that direct care workers want to have their voices heard to improve the profession and the quality of care and services. It was fitting that direct care workers from 12 states met at a place whose motto is: May the Roots Thrive! The 25 leaders from 12 states gathered at the DeKoven Center are the roots of our growing movement! I have no doubt that each and every one of the attendees will ensure that the long-term care care-gap is avoided and direct care workers are empowered by applying the powerful tools we all learned at our five day training program.

The events I witnessed at the Voices Institute Inaugural class reminded me of the gracious, generous and powerful nature of direct care workers and their ability to meet any challenge and thrive: flexibility, ability to solve problems, address crisis situations, balance challenging schedules are the stuff that the daily care-giving experience is made of. And so, all the Voices Institutes leaders gathered and we learned speech making, fundraising, organizational and self empowerment strategies and we all thrived in the intense and challenging environment Bob Hudek designed for us.

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Voices Institute Graduates on the Right to Minimum Wage and Overtime

Posted by on May 22nd, 2008 at 12:48 pm | 2 Comments »

The following speeches were written by graduates of the DCA’s 2008 Voices Institute in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Evelyn Coke case.

bridget_siljanderGood morning! Thank you for coming. I am honored to be here with you today to talk about a very serious matter. I’m Bridget Siljander and I am the President of the Direct Support Professional Association of Minnesota, which is a State chapter of the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals. I’m here to address you on behalf of DSPAM regarding the case of Long Island Care at Home vs. Evelyn Coke.

Evelyn Coke is a victim and a symbol of a systemic and widespread discrimination against direct care workers. She represents a workforce that is undervalued, and subsequently under-compensated. Direct care workers provide services to individuals with disabilities and chronic illnesses and the aging population. They work on the frontlines in our health care system and disability services, but are marginalized when it comes to organizational and policy planning. They are responsible for helping millions of Americans to live as independently as possible in community settings, which most prefer over institutional settings. They enhance the quality of life of their consumers and enable them to direct their own lives, which is a basic human right.

Evelyn Coke was one such worker for over twenty years. How can it be right to tell a 73-year old retiree of the direct care workforce that neither she, nor millions of direct care workers, are entitled to overtime protection, as are virtually all other working Americans? In June of 2007, the Supreme Court felt this was the right decision in determining the case that Evelyn Coke had brought forth in attempts to obtain overtime for direct care workers.

This is a highly disturbing event. As a direct care worker myself, and as an advocate for direct care workers, I am outraged. I have worked in the direct care field for over ten years, and though I love my job tremendously, it has not been easy to support myself.

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Report on the Baltimore “Symposium”

Posted by on May 12th, 2008 at 8:44 am | 6 Comments »

Last week’s Symposium on Strengthening the direct service workforce in Baltimore was an exciting event. Here’s a report from DCA Executive Director Leonila Vega.

The 2008 Symposium on Strengthening the HCBS Direct Service Workforce turned out to be a great event and a major success for the organizers from the Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Lewin Group.

It was very invigorating to see that these influential agencies have taken steps to start addressing the long-term care workforce crisis. The event was attended by several hundred people from each of the key constituencies involved in the long-term care system. The Alliance shared our experience in working with employers, direct care workers and older adults and persons with disabilities as we support worker associations and coalitions.

I learned a great deal at the event and I found it very encouraging that the organizers made a very strong and highly successful effort to include the voice of direct care workers and their organizations. This effort was also seen in the composition of the work groups and break out sessions.

The Alliance was able to gather over a dozen direct care workers who attended the event and participated in all the discussions. I thank the Department of Labor, Health and Human Services and the Lewin group for organizing the conference. I look forward to building on the great discussions and work that was outlined at the conference. The themes are all familiar for our work, such as improving the image for the profession, improving training and wages and benefits. I look forward to working with the new friends we made as the Alliance moves forward on our mission to improve the direct care worker profession.

Anyone else has any impressions about the meeting, please share them. I would love to hear other perspectives from people that attended the event.

Leonila Vega, Esq.
Executive Director
Direct Care Alliance