In 1991 the state legislation charged the Minnesota State Technical College Board with creating an advisory task force to report on changes needed in the pre-service and continuing education of network support staff, direct service professionals and paraprofessionals in the Health, Human Services and Education occupations.

  • The need to provide essential training for direct services staff
  • Interagency cooperation and collaboration
  • Adequate funding to sustain a delivery system
  • Curriculum and training material that emphasize skills and are core competency based
  • Dissemination of training
  • Training materials and resources
  • Value based training evaluation procedures
  • Incentives to address staff retention

The task force was made up of twenty three members of parents, consumers or people being served, advocacy groups, organizations and individuals from state employee groups, state agencies, post secondary education personnel, The Governors Council on Developmental Disabilities and contracted consultants.
In 1993 the Minnesota Statewide Direct Service Initiative (MSDSTI) was formed in a collaboration with The Governors Council on Developmental Disabilities, Association of Residential Resources in Minnesota (ARRM), Minnesota Day Achievement Centers Association (MNDACA), Minnesota State Colleges and University (MnSCU) representatives from industry, and the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) at the University of Minnesota to address the needs reported by the task force.

Since 1993, the MSDSTI has developed a strong training model for Direct Support Professionals through the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system.

Legislative funding made it possible to train customized training staff to teach in the Community Supports Program in Minnesota state colleges at many locations, including on site, and over interactive television. The curriculum was based on national skill standards developed by the Human Services Research Institute in 1995. The curriculum continues to be updated and revised as mandates, rules and regulations change within the Health, Human Services and Education occupations. The curriculum has been incorporated into MnSCU programs and instructed at MnSCU colleges throughout the state.

The CSP offers potential, new, and experienced Direct Support Professionals /Paraprofessionals and parents the opportunity to participate in a structured credit based training program and receive a certificate, diploma or Associate of Applied Science Degree in the Community Social Services Program. Graduates of the CSS will also have the option to obtain the Designated Coordinator status with two years of work experience in addition to the diploma or degree as regulated by the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) in January of 1997. The Designated Coordinator will enable the graduate to apply for supervisory and middle management positions in the Human Services occupations. Graduates will also have the option of transferring to a Four Year college with some social work coursework completed.

Since 1995 some MnSCU institutions opted to utilize Department of Labor Grants to supplement the cost of starting a Community Supports Program at their respected college. In 1997 South Central Technical College retired its Human Services Program in order to establish a Community Based Supports Program without the assistance of the Department of Labor grants or any other type of financial assistance outside of the SCC program budget. One full time faculty was hired from industry to develop and teach the core technical courses worth 24 credits of college level curriculum, as well as to advise all students and oversee all internships.

At this time, only SCC offers a part time and full time option of the 11 technical colleges that initially started a CSP. Lack of continued funding, low enrollment numbers, inconsistent instruction, and failure to take ownership of these programs can be contributed to the program closures across Minnesota. SCC takes much pride in the success of establishing, implementing and maintaining its Community Supports program.

The MSDSTI has since focused on marketing the CSP and other incentive programs for industry in this state. This group changed its name to the Minnesota Direct Support Initiative or MDSI and is committed to pursuing legislative recognition for professionalizing these Health, Human Services and Education paraprofessional occupations.

South Central College continues to have a strong land based program with a 98% placement rate for graduates of the Community Supports Program. In the summer of 2002 the CSP received a grant from MnSCU to fund the development of an online Community Supports Program based out of SCC in North Mankato. W.C. Sanders, the Coordinator and lead faculty had developed the curriculum for the land based program and was therefore, put in charge of the daunting task of developing the course work for an online audience.

While the land based program continued to grow with enrollments reaching record numbers, the grant also allowed SCC to bring in a second temporary faculty member to teach the land based classes at South Central College while Sanders developed the online content in 2002.

The first online course was developed and delivered in the fall semester of 2002. Through successful collaboration efforts from partnering colleges across the state the enrollments expanded into not one section but two sections being taught by Sanders.

Sanders, was also in charge of managing internships with distance students through a collaborative effort with partnering colleges.

Four of the eight core courses were developed and taught in the spring of 2003 by Sanders and the additional four courses followed in the fall semester of 2003. In order to make this possible SCC assigned the online coursework to the second CSP faculty and Sanders teaches the land based courses while continuing to coordinate, develop content and market the CSP across Minnesota and the United State.

As of fall 2004 the Community Supports program has joined together in a collaborative partnership with 6 other MnSCU institutions and strives to continue its pursuit for partnerships with industry and education.

The Community Supports Program at South Central College is supported by an advisory board made up of industry partners, Direct Support Professionals, advocacy groups, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, The Minnesota Direct Support Initiative, and consumers.

The Community Supports Program strives to promote professionalism within the Health, Human Services and Education occupation.

Flash forward to 2007… The newest change to the Community Supports Program includes a name change and a course redesign. We are now the Community Social Service Program! Some courses have been combined, and three new social work classes are being added. We have maintained our original focus, while adding a pre-social work aspect to our program.

We currently have two full-time faculty assigned to the program, as well as an adjunct. Most recently, the Trained Medication Assistant was added to the CSS program as well.

Community Supports Mission Statement

The mission of the Community Supports Program is to provide its students with the skills and knowledge to successfully serve and advocate for people they support through a holistic, curricular approach to learning that is academically rigorous, multi-faceted, and cutting edge, which embodies all elements of human service.

Community Social Service Expanded Statement of Purpose

To this end, the CSS graduate will become a servant leader able to advocate successfully on behalf of the individuals they serve through the use of critical thinking skills, collaborative work projects, and effective communication using a variety of methods. As a result of acquiring college-level academic skills and involvement in field-specific learning opportunities these graduates will become better equipped to join the workforce, acutely aware of political and economic issues affecting the individuals they serve and the profession.