DSP Core Competencies

What are the DSP Core Competencies?

In 2011, OPWDD convened the New York State Developmental Disabilities Talent Development Consortium, comprised of stakeholders from the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).  Its primary goal was to develop and implement a comprehensive set of Direct Support Professional (DSP) core competencies and Code of Ethics.

The New York State DSP Core Competencies were developed to align with the mission, vision, and goals of the I/DD system, and lead to enhanced quality of life for people who receive those supports. The DSP Core Competencies were adopted by the Talent Development Consortium in 2014 and apply to all DSPs across the state, at state-operated and voluntary programs. 

Coupled with the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) Code of Ethics, these values-based competencies and skills are the foundation of person-centered supports for New Yorkers with I/DD. The Core Competencies that guide DSPs include seven goal areas covering all aspects of the person’s life, and also include the importance of professionalism in direct support.

  • Putting People First
  • Building and Maintaining Positive Relationships
  • Demonstrating Professionalism
  • Supporting Good Health
  • Supporting Safety
  • Having a Home
  • Being Active and Productive in Society

Within each goal, there are competency areas that are defined by specific skills that can be demonstrated by a DSP in their work.

These skills include a wide range of technical skills, such as Medication Administration, as well as value-based skills, such as advocating with the individual being supported.

All DSPs across New York are required to demonstrate the competencies related to their positions.  The Core Competencies are NOT a training program.  The Core Competencies represent the day-to-day valuable work that DSPs perform when supporting people with developmental disabilities.   

Who are Direct Support Professionals (DSPs)?

DSP is an umbrella term that includes many different titles and functions; for example: direct support worker/specialist/assistant/counselor, habilitation specialist, residential counselor, relief staff, developmental disabilities specialist, job coach, employment specialist, paid friend/neighbor, family care provider, etc. Thousands of New Yorkers with I/DD rely on DSPs for help with life’s essential activities, such as getting dressed, finding a job, participating in recreational, educational, cultural, spiritual, and civic functions, exercising choice and self-determination, enjoying relationships with friends, family, and others, learning new skills, and engaging in and contributing to the community.

Why are competencies important for this position?

The culture in which supports are provided for people with I/DD has evolved to become increasingly person-centered with a strong emphasis on personal choice. In addition, a greater emphasis has been placed on ethical practice and a high level of competence when providing support. The nature of these components led to OPWDD’s identification of the need to establish a set of Core Competencies that combine the technical skills for the provision of high-quality support, with more value-based skills needed to assist people to make their own decisions, and live and work within the community.

Is there a mandated evaluation tool for the DSP Competencies?

Yes, there are mandated Evaluation Tools based on the DSP Core Competencies for all staff providing direct support to people with I/DDs. Additional information about the Evaluation Tools can be found on our DSP Evaluations page.

Frontline Supervisor (FLS) Core Competencies


The New York State (NYS) Frontline Supervisor (FLS) Core Competencies include 11 competency areas and 81 tailored individual skills, aligned to the competency areas. The order of  competency areas are: 1) Staff Supervision, Training, Development, and Retention; 2) Promoting Professional Relationships, Teamwork, and Communication; 3) Staff Recruitment, Selection, and Hiring; 4) Leadership, Professionalism and Personal Development; 5) Direct Support; 6) Health, Wellness and Safety; 7) Individual Support Plan Development, Monitoring, and Assessment; 8) Facilitating Community Inclusion Across the Lifespan; 9) Service Management and Quality Improvement; 10) Cultural Awareness and Responsiveness; 11) Advocacy and Public Relations.


Frontline Supervisor job titles may vary, but the main function is usually a combination of administrative and frontline duties. FLS are most easily defined as those employees that are responsible for the supervision of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who provide supports and services to people with intellectual/developmental disabilities.  FLSs are responsible for the smooth functioning of critical day-to-day operations of service providers and mentoring DSPs, while promoting the mission and vision of their organizations.


Competencies are the foundation for workforce development and standardization. The Frontline Supervisor role can be a mixture of supervision and senior direct support work. The influence of the FLS is key to the success of DSPs regarding performance expectations, workforce development, job retention, organizational culture, supervision, and personal outcomes of people being served and supported.

The following set of competencies is intended to guide current Frontline Supervisors to further develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities required of their complex role.  In addition, the tool establishes standards and expectations for DSPs and others to ready themselves for this position.

  1. Staff Supervision, Training, Development, and Retention
    Frontline Supervisors (FLSs), following employer’s policies and practices, support competency-based supervision, training, and professional development activities, such as coaching and mentoring.
    1. Lead the team to welcome and support new staff, interns, and volunteers as part of onboarding and retention by creating a supportive environment that results in job satisfaction, increases tenure, and decreases turnover.  
    2.  Promote the ongoing competency-based training and development of direct support professionals.
    3. Ensure their team of direct support professionals complete all required training, are provided onsite reinforcement of training concepts, and have the skills required to carry out all applicable plans, such as the staff action plan. 
    4. Use a variety of methods and styles to provide coaching, mentoring, and feedback to staff regarding performance and quality, including modeling expected performance, offering correction, and implementing disciplinary action, when necessary.
    5. Observe and solicit feedback from staff, each person receiving support, and each person’s family regarding direct support professional performance and development.
    6. Complete staff performance reviews and/or assist each person and family to complete performance reviews by gathering input from peers, the person, family members, and other stakeholders as required by policy and procedures.
    7. Develop staff schedules and/or assist each person and family to develop staff schedules within budgetary limitations, under all applicable policies and rules, and in response to each person’s needs.
    8. Ensure all staff time and attendance records are accurate and submitted on time.
    9. Approve staff leave time and ensure staffing levels meet requirements.
    10. Complete necessary paperwork for changes in staff status, assist in the development and modification of staff job descriptions as needed and/or assist each person and family to do so.
    11. Use tools, resources, and available technology to provide appropriate levels of remote supervision to staff when direct onsite supervision isn’t possible.
  2. Promoting Professional Relationships, Teamwork, and Communication
    Frontline Supervisors (FLSs), following the employer’s policies and practices, enhance professional relationships among team members and their capacity to work effectively with others toward common goals. FLSs use effective communication skills, facilitate teamwork, demonstrate strong interpersonal skills, and support staff’s professional development.
    1. Facilitate positive interactions among team members, manage conflict resolution, and provide support to direct support professionals in all support settings.
    2. Respond to staff questions/concerns, ensure staff have necessary support, and are provided with available resources and contact information.
    3. Use agency approved technology effectively in supervisory tasks.
    4. Respond to staff crises, facilitate debriefing sessions, and provide support to staff in a timely manner and connect to available resources, such as on-call manager, human resources or employee assistance programs.
    5. Maintain boundaries regarding personal versus professional issues and educate and support staff to maintain healthy professional boundaries.
    6. Involve and empower direct support staff by demonstrating an interest in their roles and responsibilities, encouraging staff to try new ideas, seeking staff opinions and input regarding various issues, and empowering staff to make appropriate decisions.
    7. Maximize the team’s potential by embracing the diversity and talents of the team members.
    8. When staff disclose potentially sensitive information to supervisor, maintain confidentiality of staff unless otherwise required.
    9. Report and discuss service-related issues and procedures with management, support staff, and other supervisors as needed.
    10. Coordinate and facilitate staff meetings, encouraging a sense of trust and openness, encouraging group participation, fostering ownership, and building accountability.
    11. Support a safe and respectful work environment by ensuring staff are aware of appropriate conduct and that incidents of sexual harassment, discrimination, or other inappropriate workplace behavior are addressed and reported.
  3. Staff Recruitment, Selection, and Hiring
    Frontline Supervisors (FLSs), following employer’s policies and practices, actively support and/or participate in a selection process that includes key stakeholders.
    1. Participate in recruitment activities that support the identification of viable direct support professional candidates.
    2. Effectively review resumes, applications, and relevant materials before interviews and conduct interviews to assess candidates’ alignment with the organization’s mission and values, as well as the candidates’ commitment to people with developmental disabilities.
    3. Provide a realistic job preview to candidates using video and other resources, as well as engaging candidates in conversation to assess reaction to the video content and job expectations.
    4. Assist in making hiring decisions in partnership with peers, each person receiving support, their family members, and organization staff.
    5. Support and advocate for recruitment, hiring, and retention efforts that ensure a diverse employee pool by making recommendations and providing other feedback, as needed.
    6. Use culturally competent practices in recruitment, selection and hiring.
  4. Leadership, Professionalism and Personal Development
    Frontline Supervisors (FLSs), following employer’s policies and practices, maintain professionalism and engage in ongoing personal and professional development activities. FLSs demonstrate a high level of emotional intelligence, share, and receive knowledge, support coworkers, and actively participate in the organization.
    1. Promote and support organization’s mission, vision, and core values.
    2. Employ effective strategies for problem-solving, decision-making, and conflict resolution, seeking support as needed.
    3. Demonstrate a high level of emotional intelligence. FLSs model self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. For example, FLSs recognize personal biases, stereotypes, and prejudices to ensure objectivity when interacting with others.
    4. Demonstrate sensitivity and respect for diverse perspectives, customs, spirituality, and individual differences.
    5. Complete duties with integrity by staying focused on each person receiving support, being honest, and showing respect towards others at all times.
    6. Complete duties in a timely manner.
    7. Maintain professionalism by managing own stress, balancing personal and professional life, and utilizing stress management practices.
    8. Complete required training/education/certification and continue professional leadership development.
    9. Actively participate in the organization’s activities, such as employee recognition events, recruitment events, etc.
  5. Direct Support 
    Frontline Supervisors (FLSs), following employer’s policies and practices, demonstrate, model, and promote excellence in offering culturally appropriate support, as defined in the New York State Direct Support Professional Core Competencies listed below, to people with developmental disabilities.
    1. Goal Area 1 - Putting People First
    2. Goal Area 2 - Building and Maintaining Positive Relationships
    3. Goal Area 3 - Demonstrating Professionalism
    4. Goal Area 4 - Supporting Good Health
    5. Goal Area 5 - Supporting Safety
    6. Goal Area 6 - Having a Home
    7. Goal Area 7 - Being Active and Productive in Society
  6. Health, Wellness, and Safety 
    Frontline Supervisors (FLSs), following employer’s policies and practices, work with each person receiving support and the team to develop a life plan that promotes the health, safety, and well-being of each person based on person’s preferences, goals, desired outcomes.
    1. Participate in the development and monitoring of a unique plan for each person that addresses health and safety, such as mobility issues, age-related issues, environmental risks, behavioral and medical risks, and vulnerabilities; and provide guidance to DSPs in reducing and managing risks in conjunction with each person receiving support.
    2. Promote healthy living by ensuring staff have the information and training necessary to support individuals in making healthy choices while respecting each person’s preferences.
    3. Support staff in ensuring each person receiving support is able to access and engage in community-based health and wellness resources/activities that promote personal well-being.
    4. With appropriate team members, develop plan and oversee direct support professional administration of medications and treatments for each person, including active ongoing assessment of each person's well-being in response to the medication, including reduction of symptoms being treated and potential side effects and adverse reactions.
    5. Support staff in monitoring each person receiving support for signs of illness or health-related concerns and guide staff in implementing treatments, reporting issues to health care professionals and person's family as appropriate, documenting as needed, and ensuring coordination among care providers.
    6. Ensure that infection control procedures are used as necessary and in accordance with best practice as cited by appropriate regulatory bodies by offering staff guidance and demonstrating best practices.
    7. Assist staff to support each person and the person’s support network in making informed decisions about health care plans by consulting healthcare professionals and management to promote understanding of available medical interventions, procedures, medications, and treatment options.
    8. Ensure direct support professionals provide sufficient support and oversight to help each person follow health care provider's orders and/or recommendations in accordance with organization policies and procedures and as defined by each person's needs or specific wishes.
    9. Facilitate services with health care providers by supporting staff in obtaining informed consent and release of information from each person or person's legal decision maker; share each person’s information needed by health care provider to understand and meet the unique needs of each person; advocate when necessary to ensure proper and competent care.
    10. Ensure staff know and understand local emergency plans and hazards that affect local area, maintain and implement an emergency communication plan, and have disaster supply kits available.
    11. As part of the support team, identify each person’s individual needs to ensure each person receiving support is safe in case of fire or other emergencies.  Ensure drills are scheduled, completed, and documented as required.
    12. Ensure electronic health records that identify the health and wellness needs of each person are maintained and available.
    13. Recognize and stop all forms of abuse and neglect immediately. Protect each person receiving support from further danger and harm, seek medical attention if necessary. Appropriately report incidents and occurrences as they occur or are discovered. Recognize that failure to report may be considered abuse as well. Follow OPWDD, Justice Center, and employer’s requirements for reporting potential neglect/abuse.
  7. Individual Life Plan Development, Monitoring, and Assessment
    Frontline Supervisors (FLSs), following employer’s policies and practices, support the operationalization of each person's individual goals and identified outcomes into a coordinated life plan. FLSs actively participate in support network meetings; maintain communication with each person, other service/support providers, family, and advocates; and support staff in monitoring, documenting, and reporting progress toward goals.
    1. Participate in and/or support formal and informal assessments of each person’s interests, preferences, capabilities and needs. Support staff in explaining the process to each person and discuss findings and recommendations with each person in a clear and understandable manner.
    2. Support staff in developing, implementing, and monitoring individual life plans in partnership with each person and the person’s support networks based on the person’s preferences and needs.  
    3. Help staff identify and advocate for additional resources to meet each person’s interests, preferences, and needs.
    4. Support the design and implementation of positive behavior support strategies.
    5. Work with staff to coordinate and enhance support by communicating necessary information and maintaining positive working relationships with staff from other agencies and family/advocates that provide services/support to each person as appropriate.
    6. Support staff to maintain individual records by completing necessary documentation according to best practices.
  8. Facilitating Community Inclusion
    Frontline Supervisors (FLSs), following employer’s policies and practices, assist staff to support each person to explore educational, employment, volunteer, and retirement opportunities. Collaborate with other staff and providers to coordinate support that will assist each person in reaching goals and participating in activities of their choice. FLSs assist staff to facilitate and support the development and maintenance of individual support networks in partnership with each person receiving support. 
    1. Promote, educate, and assist staff to support each person to be an active and productive member in the community, such as living in the home of their choice. 
    2. Support staff to ensure each person understands their rights by discussing the Americans with Disabilities Act.
    3. Assist staff to help each person identify resources such as transportation, funds, and contacts within the community.
    4. Assist staff in supporting each person to access and use assistive, mobile, and other technology to support independence and meaningful engagement in the community.
  9. Service Management and Quality Improvement
    Frontline Supervisors (FLSs), following employer’s policies and practices, effectively manage and oversee each person’s services and support. FLSs ensure compliance with all federal, state, and local rules and regulations, and apply ethical principles. FLSs oversee the management of required financial activities and encourage self-directed budgeting.
    1. Demonstrate knowledge and compliance of federal and state rules, regulations, and policies specific to each work setting.
    2. Maintain regular contact with each person, family members and support team members and be responsive to concerns and feedback.
    3. Provide instructions, resources, and follow-up to staff when delegating responsibilities to ensure successful completion of tasks.
    4. Participate in and respond to issues identified in surveys, audits, and quality improvement monitoring activities.
    5. Manage all required financial accounts and documentation.
    6. Support staff to use interactions and observations of each person receiving support to identify and make recommendations for quality improvement.
  10. Cultural Awareness and Responsiveness
    Frontline Supervisors (FLSs), following employer’s policies and practices, ensure the environment is respectful of all people receiving services and staff providing support.  Respect all unique characteristics of each person by ensuring services and support are culturally appropriate.
    1. Model and educate cultural awareness and responsiveness.
    2. Intervene in an appropriate manner when other staff or individuals within the organization are engaging in behaviors that show cultural insensitivity, bias, and/or prejudice.
    3. Recognize cultural differences in the meaning and/or value of health, wellness, preventative health services, and medical treatment.
    4. Promote service adaptation based on the cultural needs and preferences of each person.
  11. Advocacy and Public Relations
    Frontline Supervisors (FLSs), following employer’s policies and practices, advance public relations by demonstrating to community members the rights of people with disabilities, advocating with and for each person, and promoting valued membership in the community.
    1. Promote a positive public perception of both people receiving support and direct support professionals.  
    2. Collaborate and maintain relationships with community vendors, landlords, and other service agencies within the community.
    3. Demonstrate general knowledge of current laws, services, systems, and community resources to assist and educate each person, families, and others as needed or desired.
    4. Promote and teach advocacy skills to each person receiving support, direct support professionals, and families as needed.


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Frontline Supervisor (FLS) Core Competencies Q&A

How were the NYS Frontline Supervisor (FLS) Core Competencies Developed?

The NYS FLS Core Competencies are modeled on the National Frontline Supervisor Competencies developed by the University of Minnesota (UMN) Research and Training Center (RTC) Institute on Community Integration (ICI). The UMN 11 competencies and 120 competency statements—individual skills related to the competencies—competencies were nationally validated by a rigorous process completed in 2014.

A workgroup of talent development experts from the NYS intellectual/developmental disability (I/DD) field identified these competency areas in 2019. The FLS Core Competencies are not mandated are intended as a tool to prepare Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and others to ready themselves for this position. These competencies can also serve current FLS to further develop knowledge, skills, and abilities to fulfill perform their complicated responsibilities more effectively.

Who are Frontline Supervisors (FLS)?

They are responsible for the functioning of critical day-to-day operations. In most businesses, they are the managerial and cultural glue of a company or organization. Depending on how an FLS’s duties fit Department of Labor wage and hour definitions, the FLS may have either salaried or hourly pay status. FLS job titles may vary, but their main responsibilities include some combination of administrative and frontline duties.

Why are competencies important for this position?

Competencies are the foundation for workforce development and standardization in all fields of endeavor. In community services for people with I/DD, the role of the FLS evolved as services grew. The FLS position became a combination of both supervision and senior direct support work. The responsibilities became even more complex because of the movement toward individualized supports in the community. The influence of the FLS is key to the success of DSPs regarding performance expectations, workforce development, job retention, organizational culture, supervision, and personal outcomes of people with I/DD receiving supports.

Is there a mandated evaluation tool for the FLS Competencies?

There is no required evaluation tool for the FLS competencies.  They are being provided to the I/DD field as a resource for development of supervisors. 

Why does the New York version of FLS competencies appear somewhat different from the UMN original set?

With permission from UMN’s RTC ICI, New York retained all 11 competencies but re-ordered them to reflect the state’s prioritized thinking about the FLS’s role in its service system. For example, competency #1, Direct Support, was shifted to New York’s position #5, and Staff Supervision, Training, Development, and Retention became New York’s #1 competency. Similarly, New York’s competency statements were changed to reflect the state’s use of both language and role. For example, the term “participant” became “person”; “quality assurance became “quality improvement”; and staff responsibility for “recruitment” became a role secondary to the more centralized human resources functions in New York agencies. In these matters and others, New York maintained a faithful understanding of the 11 competencies while adapting wording and skills to fit more closely the terms and general FLS functions within NY provider agencies. I/DD talent development experts across NY, facilitated by OPWDD workforce personnel, created New York adjustments to the UMN RTC ICI original document by a consensus-driven process.

Training Guidelines

In addition to the competencies, there are numerous tools available to help agencies implement the new competencies.

Agencies are not expected to revamp their training programs, but rather, should compare their current training to the Core Competencies and cross-walk the training criteria.

Agencies may identify a need for additional training for DSPs who have not had the opportunity to apply some of the skills in their own practice prior to these competencies.

To help agencies meet this potential need, a learning resources document has been developed that lists hundreds of available learning resources.  

In addition, the DSP Competencies Tool Kit includes many resources, such as videos, manuals, and other tools, developed specifically for the implementation of the DSP Core Competencies.

To find these resources and much more please visit www.workforcetransformation.org