ANCOR Names Forrest Austin 2017 Direct Support Professional of the Year
Kansas DSP is honored for his work in support of community living for people with disabilities
Alexandria, VA. — The American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) announced today that Forrest Austin of Johnson County Developmental Supports in Kansas, is the recipient of the 2017 National Direct Support Professional Recognition Award.
ANCOR will present the award to Mr. Austin at a ceremony honoring Direct Support Professionals (DSP) from across the nation on May 3rd at ANCOR’s 2017 Conference: Taking the Helm! in San Antonio, TX in front of an anticipated audience of over 400 attendees. Relias Learning, an organization which offers online training to senior care, health and human services, public safety, and intellectual and developmental disabilities organizations, is an underwriter of the ANCOR DSP awards for the third year in a row.
Since 2007, ANCOR has honored exceptional Direct Support Professionals with the Direct Support Professional Recognition Award for exemplary work in furthering community inclusion and full participation for the many Americans living with intellectual, developmental and other disabilities. Forrest Austin was the standout of this year’s field of 245 nominees. ANCOR also named state recipients of the DSP Recognition Award in 41 states, the District of Columbia and Moldova.
The 2017 National DSP of the Year Forrest Austin is a Direct Support Professional (DSP) and Community Employment Job Coach at Johnson County Developmental Supports (JCDS) in Lenexa, KS. His mantra is built around three traits – kindness, dignity, and respect.
Forrest has been a DSP for nine years – four years at JCDS. His seasoned approach and varied skillset may surprise some; he’s only 29 years old. Yet as a job coach Forrest has enabled over a dozen individuals with intellectual disabilities to prepare for, find and keep full or part-time, well-paying jobs through Project Search, a program that provides real-life work experience to help youth with significant disabilities make successful transitions from school to adult life.
“We have people get full-time jobs for $15 an hour who have an intellectual disability. You feel like you are breaking ground,” noted Forrest. “I want that to become the rule and not the exception for our program.”
“I’ve thought about this a lot and I know there are DSPs all across the country doing great things and it is all during a time of change for services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” Forrest added. “It is a great honor to be recognized in the midst of all this, and I see it as recognition not only for my personal contributions, but to the quality services provided here in the state of Kansas and in Johnson County.”
“It is an enormous honor for Forrest and for our agency…Forrest…really does embody the team spirit that we look for here,” added Chad VonAhnen, Executive Director at JCDS. “We rely on DSPs and our staff to create solutions and figure out ways to provide opportunities for our people to be part of the community. Forrest does that every day. He’s a great thinker and a great doer. He keeps his focus on people’s abilities and providing them with choice-driven supports and advocating alongside of them to live and work in the community.”
“It is such a pleasure to read so many stories of exceptional DSPs and the work they are doing to support people with disabilities,” said Barbara Merrill, ANCOR CEO. “Our national and state award recipients truly are the cream of the crop, but we know that there are many like them across the country, working largely without recognition, who deserve our gratitude and appreciation for their hard work, dedication and compassion.”
“It is the mission of ANCOR’s National Advocacy Campaign to obtain the resources necessary to attract and retain professionals like Mr. Austin and this year’s state award recipients,” continued Merrill. “We must continue to remind our policy makers that quality services to support people with disabilities require a stable and qualified workforce who are valued for the work they do.”
ANCOR’s Direct Support Professional Recognition Award is given to those who personify the values of ANCOR’s National Advocacy Campaign. Nominees are judged on their success in helping people with disabilities build social networks and engage in substantive community participation and for advocating for the people they serve.
2017 State Direct Support Professional Award Recipients
About ANCOR. The American Network of Community Options and Resources is a national trade association representing more than 1,200 private providers of community living and employment supports and services to more than 800,000 individuals with disabilities with a workforce that’s over half a million strong. ANCOR advocates for the crucial role private providers play in enhancing and supporting the lives of people with disabilities and their families.
Through its National Advocacy Campaign, ANCOR seeks to obtain the resources to recruit, train and retain a sustainable direct support workforce. ANCOR provides organization, professional, leadership development and networking opportunities and services and is continually working toward partnerships and collaborations that support our mission, which is to advance the ability of our members in supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to fully participate in their communities. www.ancor.org.
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