Date of Graduation

Spring 5-21-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Organization and Leadership (O&L)


School of Education

First Advisor

Seenae Chong


The current service system for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities is provided in the form of community-based support. This support is carried out by Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who provide one-on-one services to individuals in their homes, workplaces, and communities. The current system is undergoing a turnover crisis and there is an enormous need for a quality and reliable workforce of DSPs to continue to carry out services. Previous research has explored factors that contribute to DSP burnout and ultimately turnover. By researching the DSP role from the DSP experience directly, this study examines other factors that contribute to DSP burnout, as well as factors that contribute to job satisfaction. This study additionally examines how DSPs maintain a balance between both the stressful and fulfilling aspects of their job, in an attempt to determine how organizational leaders can positively affect retention in a manner that situates DSPs’ direct needs at the forefront. The study was conducted by surveying and interviewing DSPs who work for agencies in four Northern California Counties. The study found that the greatest contributor to DSP job satisfaction is in their investment in and commitment to the job as well as relationships, particularly with clients. The greatest source of stress was found to be in other relationships, and a lack of recognition and professional regard for the DSP role. DSPs were found to reconcile these contrasting factors by continually returning their focus to the positive and tangible impact that they have on the lives of clients served. Through the theoretical framework of Social Capital, the study concludes that while DSPs may lack social capital societally, they gain interpersonal and relational social capital in the rich and meaningful relationships that they develop with their clients.