Sunday, February 23, 2014

I "love" the guys....

Been a while since a post.  I am not as prolific a blogger as others in this cyber world of opinions and insights but I usually write when I am moved, inspired, pissed or feeling like something needs to be said.   Now, is one of those times.

I have been spending lots of time with direct support professionals these last two months.  I have probably have met with over 400 direct support professionals these past weeks and there is a serious concern.

Many direct support workers use a phrase that is all too common,  "I love the guys".  Worse yet is when I hear a DSP say, "I love MY guys"!  It is truly amazing how much this is said and how offensive it is. Let me explain.

Relationships that are created between direct support professionals and people supported should be based on professional competence and ethics.  It should never be based on "love" of the people or a notion that one "loves" the persons they are paid to support.  In fact, this is a dangerous idea.

 I have heard brand new direct support professionals, within one day of working with people with developmental disabilities, say..."I just love these guys"!  "They are like my family member already"!  I have even heard things like this: "If I ever leave this job or have to move or something like that, I will always keep in touch my MY guys"!   I cannot count the number of times I have seen DSPs, and other staff as well, suddenly depart willingly or otherwise from an agency or organization....more importantly, from the relationship where they "loved" the guys.....never to be heard from or seen again. 

To me saying things like, "I love my guys" objectifies people with disabilities, diminishes the profession of direct support and ultimately is an impossibility. (It is also sexist in that the term guys implies male gender)  I know of no other profession other than perhaps religious clergy where loving the customer is accepted.  Also, saying "my guys" implies your ownership and control "over" people.  This is totally against the message of our code of ethics and is a slippery slope into servitude. 

One may grow to love and respect a person supported but direct support professionals need to understand that their role is not one of family or friend.  The primary role is that of  assistant, stage-hand and ally.  Most certainly we can develop affection and indeed, love, over time as we grow in our professional relationships. However, to say that the reason we work as direct support professionals is our "love" of the guys is disrespectful and ultimately not true. 

Direct support professionals are often referred to as, "angels", "God's hands on Earth", "where the rubber meets the road",  and so forth.....Most people see the work of a direct support professional as something valiant or noble. Something that not just anyone can do or wants to do.  True, the work is rewarding and many great things occur in the the relationships that grow between DSPs and the people they support, but DSPs are not angelic or noble or otherwise (at least as a blanket idea for the profession).  

Direct support is a profession.  It is still being identified and developed but stands as a wonderful and meaningful career choice.  In this profession one may develop close and meaningful relationships with people.  However, never be mistaken that the work executed on a daily basis is rooted in knowledge, skills and is never rooted on the love of the people supported.  

So, if you say, "I love the guys" or "I love my guys" in your usual conversations,  I ask you to stop, reflect on this blog, and reconsider your role in the lives of the people you support.  People supported belong to themselves.  We do not own anyone.  We don't love everyone. 

As an alternative say, " I love my profession!"