Christian Opportunity Center (COC) has felt the strain of a staff shortage for several months and the shortage has now reached critical levels. This shortage is most evident in the need for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). DSPs offer around-the-clock support for individuals with disabilities. Their work allows the people COC supports the opportunity to live the life they choose to live.

The turnover rate for DSPs has been affected by non-standard working hours and pay that is bound by state and federal funding. Since the pandemic began, the staff shortage has intensified. Competing with other local industries offering higher pay and better hours makes it particularly challenging in recruiting new employees.

In the past year, COC has made many efforts to recruit and retain staff, including offering a higher sign-on bonus, utilizing temp agencies to fill the need, and increasing DSP wages. These efforts have all been enhanced with support from Staff Enhancement funds from the COC Foundation Fund. The Staff Enhancement Fund is designed to reward and provide incentives to staff members to continue their service with COC. Even with all the extra efforts made over the past year, COC has not been able to meet our staffing needs. To fill the gaps, COC administrative staff have been working many hours during this crisis an average of 300 direct support hours per week agency wide.

COC has 26 residential programs in Pella, Knoxville, Oskaloosa, Indianola, and Des Moines, several of which have been critically short staffed for an extended time. The continued stress on COC’s workforce has forced COC Leadership to make some hard decisions to ensure the quality of the services we offer and to ease the burden and workload for current staff. Because of the ongoing staffing crisis, the decision was made to close a few of our residential programs that have been the hardest to staff, and the impacted people supported and their families have been notified of these closures.

Closing programs is a last resort in an attempt to downsize COC’s programs to more closely match the workforce available to staff these programs. We are keenly aware that the lives of people supported and their families are disrupted by these closings. We are doing all we can to assist those affected in finding alternative services. We continue to believe in the importance of our mission of integrating Christian values in empowering individuals with disabilities to realize their full potential, and we encourage others to join us in that mission by applying for a job at COC. For more information on job opportunities that are available at COC, please visit our website at or contact our HR department at 641-628-1162.