Individual & Family Voices

Staffing Shortages Have a Direct Impact on Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities and their Families

Individuals with intellectual disabilities rely on Direct Support Professionals to support them in their daily lives. This page shares real stories from individuals and families affected by the hiring crisis.

Tonya's Story

DSPs supported Tonya successfully in the community for three years, but staffing shortages started her on a painful journey bouncing from new placements to hospitals and finally to institutional care at the Utah State Developmental Center. Instability, confusion, and frustration are the tragic impacts of staffing shortages on individuals with developmental disabilities.

Conner's Story

My son, Conner Ridges, is a beautiful 25 year old young man with severe autism.  He is non verbal and functions at the level of a small child.  He is the light of our lives but requires constant, round the clock, one on one supervision.  We are so appreciative of the support we receive through DSPD.  It has literally saved our family and provided a full and meaningful life for Conner.  He attends an amazing community-based day program in Davis County.  The best part of of the service is its staff-- they are the kindest, most compassionate and loving people who understand Conner’s needs and how to care for him, while at the same time, celebrate every smile and good day.  The staffing crisis that is severely affecting Utah is unfortunately affecting these providers exceptionally hard.  Conner’s favorite staff recently quit the program to work as a waitress, where she could make considerably more money.  This terrifies me!  The job that Conner’s workers perform each day is so very important and critical to clients like Conner.  They make a difference in his quality of life and day to day success.  When he is with someone trained in autism, who is kind and understanding, it prevents severe meltdowns and boosts his mental health.  Please… we need to pay them more than McDonalds workers!  What they are doing is making the hugest difference in the lives of so many individuals-- individuals who are going to be part of our society for many years to come.  These workers do such an important job.  They play a critical role in Conner’s mental health big picture.  It is a huge factor in him being able to live at home with us and again, have a great quality of life.  Please help us by paying these workers more!!  It is the best thing that you can do for families like mine.  We are so appreciative of all of the support we get and are desperate to not lose any more awesome workers.   Thanks very much for considering this request!

~Lisa Ridges, Mother

Adeline's Story

Adeline is Autistic and has some mental health challenges. Her challenging behavior makes it more difficult to care for her. Recently, the provider that was serving her gave notice due to staffing shortages. Adeline bounced from two hospitals and then to jail and finally was released back to her mother. Adeline can successfully be served with enough staffing. Adeline is an excellent example of the strain that is, and will continue to be placed on other systems without an adequately staffed provider system. It will only get worse if staffing does not improve.


Kip and Misty 2.png
Kip and Misty 1.png

Kip's Story

I am writing this letter in hopes of bringing awareness about the staffing shortage that is happening in group homes across the state of Utah. This is due to the very low hourly pay rate. I had to place my thirteen-year-old severely Autistic son in a group home. . .on February fourth 2021. It was the hardest decision I have ever had to make.

I am a single mom and I could not care for him and my family by myself any longer. My son became very aggressive after his grandpa passed away in June of 2019. My son was severely hurting himself and family members. There were two separate incidents with him and his grandma where we had to call an ambulance both times. My son pushed her down our stairs breaking her arm in three places then three months later he pushed her down onto our driveway causing her to break her hip. He has the mentality of a two- year- old so he doesn’t understand.

My son is completely non-verbal so I have to put all of my trust into complete strangers to care for him properly. I am four hours away from him so that’s extremely difficult. Caring for my son and other children and adults with these types of disabilities is very hard. It definitely takes a toll on everyone physically, mentally and can cause emotional distress. When my son lived with me, I would cry myself to sleep almost every single night because I just didn’t know how I was going to get through another day. This job is extremely stressful, overwhelming and exhausting.

My son requires constant supervision. These staff members are changing diapers, they get hit, spit on, bitten to the point of drawing blood, their hair pulled, they do their laundry, cook their meals, accompany the medical staff to doctor and dental appointments which can be very challenging at times. They administer meds, help bathe or shower these individuals, they help them brush their teeth, help them get dressed and so much more.

My son has had some amazing staff that he has formed special bonds with but just in the last year he has also lost several valuable staff members as well as four different house managers because this job is hard and the pay is nowhere near enough. My son doesn’t do well with change. When new staff members come in, a lot of the time he will physically try to hurt them. It’s very hard for Kip to foster new relationships with staff, that is why I desperately need the staff members to stay that he’s grown to love and trust. With staff members coming in and then quitting after just a couple of weeks it really confuses and upsets my son. His daily routine gets interrupted, the progress he has made with potty training decreases and since my son is non-verbal it’s complicated for new staff to learn how Kip uses hand gestures to get things he wants or doesn’t want, if that doesn’t go well my son will quickly become destructive and aggressive.

I have seen my son makes huge progress with the staff that truly care, his aggression decreases, he’s learning sign language and the pictures I receive of him I can see that he’s happy and that makes me happy. I need these types of staff members to stay, they genuinely care and they want these kids and adults to have the best quality of life possible. They deserve a raise in pay immediately for what they do on a daily basis. There has been such a huge turn over rate because these staff members can go work at a fast- food restaurant making more money.

Many group homes have had to shut down because there are not enough staff members. The staff members that they do have are having to work extra hours and they are getting burnt out. A lot of them have their own families or they are attending college . . . I fear that they will eventually not have any staff to replace the ones my son has lost and they will no longer be able to serve my son. The raise in pay needs to happen immediately! This is something that cannot just be over looked and set aside. Thank you for taking the time to read my letter!

~Misty Robinson, Mother

Elaine's Story