Forrest Austin, a Direct Support Professional with Johnson County Developmental Supports, received the 2017 National Direct Support Professional of the Year award from The American Network of Community Options and Resources. ANCOR gives this award annually for exemplary work in furthering community inclusion for people living with intellectual, developmental and other disabilities. Judges look at nominees’ success in helping people with disabilities build social networks, participate in the community and advocate for themselves.
Austin has worked as a Direct Support Professional for nine years, four of them with JCDS. Part of his work involves serving as a Project SEARCH employment coach, and he has supported more than a dozen individuals with intellectual disabilities in their efforts to secure and maintain employment.
"When we have people get full-time jobs for $15 an hour who have an intellectual disability, we feel like we are breaking ground," said Austin. "I want that to become the rule and not the exception for the people we serve."
"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,” said Chad VonAhnen, executive director, Johnson County Developmental Supports. “Forrest does that every day. He keeps his focus on our clients’ abilities, providing them with choice-driven supports and advocating alongside of them to live and work in the community."
Since 2007, ANCOR has honored exceptional DSPs with the Direct Support Professional of the Year award. The association chose Austin from 245 nominees. ANCOR also named state recipients of the DSP Recognition Award in 41 states, the District of Columbia and Moldova.
"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," said Austin.