Matthew Hender smiling

It’s All About the Relationships: Meet Matthew Hender

Bobby, a sensitive and compassionate man in his 70s, is just one of the many people with autism Matthew Hender has cared for in his decade with Bancroft. Several years ago, when Matthew was new to working in Bobby’s group home, he took the group to a casual dinner. “I had soup and was crushing up my packet of crackers,” explains Matthew, “and Bobby reached his hand out. I thought, ‘I guess he wants my crackers’ so I gave them to him.” But Bobby didn’t want the crackers for himself; he opened them up and handed them back. He was trying to help when he thought the cracker crushing was Matthew’s struggle to open them. “(That gesture) solidified that this is the right place for me.”

Matthew has 10 years of heartwarming stories.

He began his work as a Direct Support Professional (DSP) with Bancroft right out of high school. “I like the relationships. Even during bad times (the people he supports) always find a way to recharge your batteries.”

When Bancroft announced a new program that would offer a certification for the DSP role, Matthew signed up right away – excited to build skills and learn more about providing person-centered care. 

The program gives DSPs, like Matthew, the opportunity to obtain a certification with the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP), a nationally-recognized organization that works to increase the professionalism and recognition of the DSP role. Three certification levels are available: DSP I, DSP II and DSP III with each taking a year to complete. Those who complete each level receive a pay increase, as well as a DSP Apprenticeship Certificate from the US Department of Labor for those in Bancroft’s New Jersey programs. 

Matthew is part of the first cohort of graduates for Level I – a group leading the charge for the Bancroft DSPs who will follow in their footsteps. For Matthew, who is not only working full time while completing the certification program but also attending school full time, the leadership role is one he relishes. “I’m ready for Level II.”

Matthew is one of 19 graduates in this cohort, one of over 2,000 Direct Support Professionals at Bancroft, and one of over 200,000 DSPs nationwide. 

DSPs are vital to supporting and empowering people with disabilities to increase their independence and live the most meaningful lives possible. They wear many hats: companions, advocates, medication administrators, cheerleaders and supporters. They are the daily caregivers for those living with disabilities, and the eyes and ears for the clinicians.

“Our job is to support people,” explains Matthew, “not from our values but from theirs. I feel like I’m in the right place.”

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