Archive for March, 2009

How to Use Economic Stimulus Funds to Improve Direct Care Jobs

Posted by on March 31st, 2009 at 3:18 pm | 1 Comment »

dca-policy-brief-1-coversmallUsing Recovery Act Funds to Improve Direct Care Jobs and the Quality of Direct Care Services (PDF)

A new Direct Care Alliance policy brief helps direct care worker advocates, employers, educators, researchers and others make the case for investing part of the federal funding available through the Recovery Act in the direct care workforce.

DCA Executive Director Leonila Vega calls this window of opportunity “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

But that window will close in just a few weeks, once all the funds have been allocated. “Funds made available through the fiscal stimulus can do great things, but direct care advocates need to move quickly to figure out what they can use–and how. This brief offers them a terrific road map,” says labor economist Nancy Folbre, a member of the editorial committee that produced the brief.

Vega held a conference call this month with leaders of state direct care worker associations to go over a draft of the brief and discuss ways they could use it. “Nearly a trillion dollars is being sent to states by the federal government with the express purpose of stimulating the economy and building our infrastructure so more Americans join the middle class,” she says. “Let’s make sure we don’t use these funds for Band-Aid solutions, but instead for systems change programs that can help renew our economy by improving these crucial and fast-growing jobs.”
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Help Us Change the World: Apply to the DCA’s Voices Institute

Posted by on March 31st, 2009 at 12:31 pm | 1 Comment »
Bridget (third from R) and colleagues at the 2008 Voices Institute training

Bridget (third from R) and colleagues at the 2008 Voices Institute training

Download the invitation letter and an application form you can mail or fax (PDF)

Apply online

“I would recommmend this training to anyone who wants to become a leader,” says Tracy Dudzinski, one of the empowered graduates of the 2008 Voices Institute National Leadership Institute.

The Voices Institute is now recruiting direct care workers to become the next class of leaders in a grassroots movement to strengthen and celebrate the workforce that provides vital services to Americans who need chronic care.

I know very well how important we are: I have been a direct care worker for well over a decade. For most of that time, I lacked a sense of having a connection with other direct care workers and felt powerless over my professional situation.

Then I attended the 2008 Voices Institute and found a network of new friends and colleagues. Being united with others who have a background similar to mine, and feeling a kinship and a bond with people who mirrored me, was one of the most inspirational times in my life.

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Indiana Care Givers Association Sponsors Symposium

Posted by on March 31st, 2009 at 9:27 am | Comments Off on Indiana Care Givers Association Sponsors Symposium

Symposium flyer (PDF)

DCA Direct Care Worker Specialist Vicki Erickson will join other speakers on April 24 for a symposium on the direct care workforce sponsored by the Indiana Care Givers Association. Erickson will offer a direct care worker’s perspective.

Other speakers include:

  •    PHI Midwest Policy Specialist Tameshia Bridges, who will discuss projections for the future size and demographics of the workforce;
  •    Arlene Franklin and Robyn Grant, whose topic is “How the workforce can meet the demands for high quality care”;
  •    DCA board member Genevieve Gipson, who will talk about emerging roles for career nursing assistants;
  •    John Delgado of the U.S. Department of Labor, who will talk about apprenticeship programs for direct care workers; and
  •   U.S. Army Reserves lieutenant colonel Ivy Griggs on meeting the needs of America’s veterans. 

Carework Network Issues Call for Papers

Posted by on March 30th, 2009 at 7:03 pm | Comments Off on Carework Network Issues Call for Papers

carework-network-logo2If you’ve got something to say about how social forces such as gender, race, and class affect our ability to give and receive care, or about how activists and experts from different disciplines can contribute to the understanding of care work, the Carework Network wants to hear from you.

The network is seeking papers for its 2009 conference, a one-day conference that brings together researchers, policymakers and advocates involved in various domains of carework (direct care, child care, etc.)  The application deadline has been extended to April 20.

An international organization of care work researchers, policymakers, and advocates, The Carework Network is co-chaired by Direct Care Alliance Executive Director Leonila Vega. Its conference will be held this August in San Francisco.

Educator to Sponsor Six to Attend Pennsylvania DCW Conference

Posted by on March 30th, 2009 at 6:43 pm | Comments Off on Educator to Sponsor Six to Attend Pennsylvania DCW Conference

2009-pa-conference-brochurewith-border3Conference brochure and application form (PDF)

The Pennsylvania Direct Care Workers Association is accepting attendees forms for its 2009 conference – and a CNA training program in Bethlehem is covering the cost of registration for up to six lucky local workers.

The day-long conference will be held on May 18 at the Harrisburg Country Club. It will include nearly a dozen educational workshops as well as inspirational speakers, continental breakfast and lunch, free massages (first come first serve), and other giveaways.

Bethlehem AVTS Continuing Education Department will pay registration fees for up to six direct care workers from Northampton or Lehigh County.

To learn more about the scholarship guidelines or to apply for a scholarship, call 610.866.8013, ext. 111 or email

Support Direct Care Workers and Save Taxpayer Dollars

Posted by on March 29th, 2009 at 10:54 am | 5 Comments »
Terry Lynch

Terry Lynch

I just gave a keynote speech at the annual conference of an organization that’s influencing the future of long-term care in the United Kingdom. It’s called In Control, and its mission is to enable people using long-term care services to determine what services they need and to control how they are provided. This approach to service provision is known, both there and in the United States, as Self-Directed Support (SDS).

I was asked to speak at this conference because my mother, Leila Lynch, and I developed our own version of SDS long before it became a formalized service delivery option. Our experience underscores the reason for raising the pay of direct care workers and expanding, not limiting, their involvement in the lives of the people they support. Direct care workers were the driving force behind our success story.

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The Mouse that Roared: A Direct Care Worker’s Journey to Advocacy

Posted by on March 26th, 2009 at 5:06 pm | 3 Comments »
Tracy Dudzinski

Tracy Dudzinski

I never thought something so simple could mean so much.

Last time I wrote a blog, I was flying high from giving my personal testimonial at the Health Care Reform Symposium in Washington D.C. Now I have another reason to write.

The Saturday after I got back from D.C., I went shopping with my kids. We went into a store that I had been in before and I saw a ring I’d seen there. The ring was engraved with the saying: “Believe in yourself and magic will happen.”

I wanted to buy the ring the first time I saw it, but I guess I didn’t believe in myself enough at the time. Well, the second time I saw the ring, I bought it.

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Join the DCA in Asking Secretary of Labor Solis to Help Home Care Aides

Posted by on March 19th, 2009 at 11:51 am | 4 Comments »

In a February 27 letter to Hilda Solis, (PDF) the new U.S. Secretary of Labor, the Direct Care Alliance asked the Department of Labor to correct an injustice in a ruling affecting home care aides.

The DCA is advocating for a change to the ruling, which exempts home care aides from minimum wage and overtime protection under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Our Respect for Homecare Workers campaign was launched last year to mobilize support for the change — and to advocate for the resources needed to support it, so workers can get their due without saddling employers with unsupportable costs or stripping consumers of crucial control over who and how they hire.

The February letter requests a meeting with Solis to discuss the FLSA fix and other ways of improving the labor market by supporting the fast-growing direct care workforce. “We believe that the direct care workforce employed in long-term care and health care can be crucial to the nation’s economic renewal, and to achieving President Obama’s goal of increasing the number of hard working Americans who enter the middle class,” it says.

In five minutes or less, you can help home care workers get the FLSA protections they deserve. Visit the DCA’s Legislative Action Center and send Secretary of Labor Solis a letter to let our new administration know you care about this issue.

Read the DCA board’s resolution about changing the FLSA

Read more about the FLSA and home care workers

Elise Nakhnikian
Communications Director
Direct Care Alliance

The Case of the Missing Wages and Benefits

Posted by on March 17th, 2009 at 9:00 pm | 2 Comments »

If you think wages and benefits don’t matter to direct care workers, economist Candace Howes has news for you.

The On-the-Job Injury that Almost Cost Me My Career

Posted by on March 17th, 2009 at 8:17 pm | 7 Comments »
Vicki Erickson

Vicki Erickson

Since we direct care workers have the highest rate of on-the-job injuries of any profession, I guess it’s not surprising that I’ve had several in my 24 years on the job. Not all were bad enough to result in a worker’s compensation claim, but the latest one almost cost me my career.

On January 1, 2008, I threw out my back while lifting a patient with a nurse. When I got off work that night, I turned on the heated seats in my car to try to help my back relax. That didn’t help, so I took a couple of pain pills when I got home. I thought I would be fine by morning, but throughout the night it got worse.

I followed all the proper channels to resolve the problem. I saw the doctor my employer sent me to every week for a while and went to physical therapy three times a week. And then I got an MRI that showed a tear to a disc in my back.

Since I had had the same injury four years before at another job, my employer dropped my worker’s compensation claim. I wound up getting a spinal fusion, which involved putting two rods and four screws in my back, and spent 10 and a half months out of work while I healed.

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Holy Cow – I Did It! Testifying at a D.C. Symposium

Posted by on March 13th, 2009 at 3:11 pm | 6 Comments »

Watch part one (above) to hear the first part of Tracy’s testimony, and part two to hear about the changes she would like to see.

What do you do when you get a call from the executive director of the DCA asking you to go to Washington, D.C. to tell the people at an Institute of Medicine symposium what it’s like to be a direct care worker?

You panic for a second. You think: “Why me? What would I say?”

Then you take a deep breath to calm your nerves and think: “Why not me? I am the expert in direct care, and people need to hear the voice of the worker if we are ever going to change things.”

I told Leonila I would be happy to speak to the group. Then I panicked again and waited for a call from Elise, the DCA’s communications director. After our conversation, I felt much better. I went home that evening and wrote out my testimony. (PDF) I worked with Elise and she helped me make it as powerful as I could.

Then we had a call with the people from the Institute of Medicine and I found out that I had to cut parts of my testimony, since it was 20 minutes long and it needed to be closer to 10. (And here I’d thought I wouldn’t have enough to say.)

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Let Me Show You Even More : My Month as a Rallying, Testifying Direct Care Worker Advocate

Posted by on March 10th, 2009 at 4:30 pm | Comments Off on Let Me Show You Even More : My Month as a Rallying, Testifying Direct Care Worker Advocate
Bridget Siljander (right) at rally with DSPAM V-P Lindsay Short and Bridget's daughter, Imani (in red scarves).

Bridget Siljander (right) at rally with DSPAM V-P Lindsay Short and Bridget's daughter, Imani (in red scarves).

From a fresh, wide-eyed neophyte to a rallying, testifying advocate – this is the magic of the Direct Care Alliance touch in the direct care worker advocacy movement.

When I blogged about the beginning of my journey as an advocate I told you: “Now, let me show what I can do!” Well, let me show you even more! Even I can hardly believe what I’ve been up to for the last month or so: testifying, meetings with legislators, and attending a huge rally.

On February 17, I testified before the Minnesota Senate Committee Health and Human Services Budget Division about budget cuts to disability and personal care attendant services recommended by the Governor. I signed up because it was a great advocacy opportunity: with PCA wages as low as they already are, we can’t afford further cuts.

After getting confirmation from the committee page that I was on the agenda to testify, I began my research. I consulted with numerous allies and more experienced advocates. I read the pieces in the Governor’s proposal that addressed Personal Care Assistance Services. Some members of the board of my association (I’m the president of the Direct Support Professional Association of Minnesota, or DSPAM) sent me documents to read in preparation, such as responses to the proposal from people with disabilities.

After a few days, my testimony was crafted. I delivered it with great pride.

As I testified, I wondered if the committee had yet seen the legislative letter that DSPAM had just sent to all Minnesota legislators. DSPAM would soon follow up on the letter with visits to the state capitol.

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DCA’s Siljander Testifies before State HHS Committee

Posted by on March 4th, 2009 at 6:51 pm | 3 Comments »

Bridget Siljander, the president of the Direct Support Professional Association of Minnesota and one of the DCA’s Direct Care Worker Specialists, testified last month before the Health and Human Services Budget Division of the Minnesota Senate Finance Committee. She urged the committee not to cut the budget for the state’s personal care assistance program.

DCA Offers TA to Direct Care Worker Associations, Coalitions

Posted by on March 3rd, 2009 at 6:16 pm | 2 Comments »
Roy Gedat

Roy Gedat

Direct care worker associations and coalitions that want help with fundraising, organizational sustainability, or membership recruitment and development may now apply for technical assistance and support from the Direct Care Alliance.

Along with a limited amount of financial support, our technical assistance helps organizations that are committed to worker empowerment create a powerful advocacy voice by and for direct care workers.

 Benefits include access to:

  •   Training, coaching and strategic planning consultation at no charge;
  •   The services of DCA staff and consultants at no or significantly reduced cost;
  •   Matching funds (as funding permits) for associations working on grassroots/small donor fundraising initiatives, or membership recruitment/development
  •   No cost for online and in person seminars and workshops;
  •   Annual leadership training for direct care workers through the Voices Institute;
  •   Fiscal management services and non-profit status for organizations wishing to establish a DCA chapter;
  •   Inclusion in DCA grant-funded projects of mutual interest and benefit;
  •   Development of communication tools such as brochures and newsletters;
  •   Assistance with and sponsorship of your conferences and annual meetings, as funds allow;
  •   Sponsorship of advocacy activities, as funds allow; and
  •   Free use of our “how to” Notes from the Frontline series.

To learn more, contact Roy Gedat at

Direct Service Paper Builds Bridges between Silos

Posted by on March 3rd, 2009 at 5:09 pm | 1 Comment »

cross-sector-white-paper-coverwith-borderOne major barrier to improving direct care jobs is the silo effect — the way very similar parts of the health care and personal care services continuum operate as separate silos, more likely to compete for scarce public funding than to share information or lobbying resources. But a new white paper from the National Direct Service Workforce Resource Center is an excellent resource for advocates who want to build bridges between those silos.

“Important opportunities exist for collaboration, networking and sharing of information and resources,” says A Synthesis of Direct Service Workforce Demographics and Challenges across Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities, Aging, Physical Disabilities, and Behavioral Health. (PDF) The 54-page white paper compares challenges and solutions involving direct care workers  — or, as the paper calls them, direct service workers (DSWs) — across the four sectors named in its title.

Principal authors Amy Hewitt and Sheryl Larson and their coauthors summarize the best studies and data available on the subject, adding their own analysis and recommendations. The authors identify five promising areas of focus:

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