Caring for the Physically, Developmentally or Mentally Challenged

Upstate Cerebral Palsy work acts as direct support professional for Jones IRA facilities, operated by Upstate Cerebral Palsy

By Barbara Pierce

Kevin Kaltak is a direct support professional at Jones IRA in Barneveld.

Kevin Kaltak is a direct support professional at Jones IRA in Barneveld. The residence, operated by Upstate Cerebral Palsy, provides care and support for the 12 developmentally disabled adults who live there.

In Central New York, Upstate Cerebral Palsy is the leading provider of direct-care services and programs for children and adults who are physically, developmentally or mentally challenged — and their families. It provides innovative programs and services to support people and help them reach their highest potential.

Upstate Cerebral Palsy offers a variety of residential opportunities for adults with differing abilities. These living facilities, certified by the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, provide room, board and individualized oversight with staff available at all times.

Twenty-one-year-old Kaltak, who lives in Deerfield, has worked for Upstate Cerebral Palsy for 10 months, and was recently promoted to residence manager.

We recently interviewed Kaltak about the services. Here’s a summary of the conversation.


Q. What is Jones IRA?

A. Jones IRA (Individualized Residential Alternatives) is a 12-bed residence, one of many operated by Upstate. Some of the others are 12 beds, some are six-bed. The six-bed residences care for more independent people, people with behavioral issues. Nine of our 12 residents are in a wheelchair; all of them have physical problems. We’re paid through Medicaid.

Q.  As a direct service professional at Jones, what is your typical day like?

A. The floor manager and I review the individual action plans for each of our residents. We go over the action plan that each of our residents have, spelling out specific goals and what we will do to help that person achieve those goals. For example, a typical goal might relate to safety skills, such as wearing mask when out in public. Or it might relate to living skills, such as putting their clothing protector away after using.

The action plan for each person relates to something they are interested in, or some skill they need to learn. Something that builds up their ability to do daily activities, communicate better, socialize better. 

During the day, most go to a day habilitation program, where they work on their goals and do activities to help them become as independent as possible.

Q. What inspired you to take this position?

A. I took this job because the organization is a good one to work for. It’s good because there are so many possibilities for different positions I could hold in the future. I definitely see myself staying with Upstate for the future. 

Q. What training did you have to work as a direct service professional?

A. I had three weeks of training that was provided by Upstate. It covered diet, preparing food, passing medication, etc. It covered every aspect of the job I do. It definitely gets you well prepared. I did get paid a salary while I was training.

I just finished my bachelor’s degree in accounting; I had thought that was the field I wanted to go into. Upstate was very supportive and accommodating to help me get my degree, like they scheduled my work hours around my class hours.

A bachelor’s degree is not a requirement to get this job, high school is all that’s required. But my bachelor’s degree will help me advance my career with Upstate. For example, if I want to be director of community service, or something like that in the future, it will be easier for me to get that position over someone without a degree. 

They’ve told me if accounting is something I feel like I’d like to do in the future, they’ll help me get a position with them, working with accounting.

Q. What kind of person does it take to be happy in this job?

A. It takes a well-rounded person, someone who really cares for people. Yes, the job pays well, but that’s not what it’s about. If you go into it just for the money, you won’t be happy. 

You have to care about people, care about making sure all their needs are met. At the end of the day, I feel like I’ve accomplished something in making sure all their needs were met; they’re like my own family.

Q. What is most rewarding about this job?

A. Most rewarding is just the simple stuff. Like when someone remembers it’s my birthday and wishes me happy birthday. Or someone asks me “How’s your day going?” I love seeing the smiles of my people. The simplest stuff is rewarding. Something simple like going outside, going for a walk.

One of my people went to lunch with her family; I drove her to meet them at the restaurant. She was so grateful to me for driving her there, it put a smile on my face.  Amazing! Stuff like that is amazing!

Q. What’s most challenging?

A. Most challenging as a manger is keeping a balance between getting the paperwork done and providing direct care.