Congressman John Lewis encouraged Americans to get into “good trouble.” These are the words he lived by, pushing the envelope and standing up to injustice. His ongoing fight against social and economic injustice for people of color led him from his march on Selma to his years of dedicated service to the US Congress. Throughout his lengthy career, Lewis worked tirelessly to right many societal wrongs.
At Venture, our idea of “good trouble” is calling attention to the significant human services workforce problem. We recognize this problem as a wide-ranging social crisis and we recognize that it’s about way more than just jobs. If McDonald’s doesn’t have enough staff to make your Big Mac, then you can go down the street to Burger King for a Whopper. That is not the case in human services. The systemic lack of staff available to fill positions in our field has led to 7000 adults with disabilities unable to access day programs. For some families, this is devastating. They rely on that time to work outside of the home or to have respite from care taking.
The social crisis impacts the thousands of workers in the human services industry, too. Because the industry doesn’t pay a living wage, our workers are often forced to work multiple jobs in order to make ends meet.
These choices have a real and significant impact on the families of our employees, too. Living in low-income households has long-term, far-reaching effects on the children of our employees. Studies have shown that children who grow up in poverty are more likely to develop chronic illnesses such as asthma and obesity. They are more likely to be sedentary and experience exposure to tobacco, increasing their risk of cardiac and pulmonary diseases. Only 62% of children from low-income families graduate from high school, compared to 90% of middle and upper economic class families. Of those, only 3% graduate from college as compared to 37% for middle and upper economic classes. These children tend to have more behavioral problems in the home and in school. Parental absence can also be tied to poorer cognitive ability in language, reading and mathematics.
Our employees do admirable work and are dedicated to the field. They collectively have a very positive impact on adults with disabilities throughout Massachusetts. We are all – vendors, staff, parents, guardians, concerned citizens – part of a system that should be supporting the welfare of our Direct Support Professionals and their families so that they can continue to support adults with disabilities.
Lewis said “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.” I urge you all to continue connecting with your legislators. They need to know how important the work that the human services industry is and honor the commitment that the Commonwealth made decades ago to care for people with disabilities. Let’s make some good trouble and make our voices heard!