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Tamara Foster’s Story – Jacksonville, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida – Meet DSP Tamara Foster of Pine Castle

Direct Support Professionals are a vital part of our community, our organization, and the workforce at large. The people who fill this important role make immeasurable differences in the lives of adults with intellectual and developmental differences. We must compensate these hard-working and dedicated team members in a way that supports them in their careers, is competitive, and enables them to be successful.

Tamara Foster has been with Pine Castle since 2007. Over the past 14 years, she has worked in nearly every department on campus and has been an asset to each team she has worked with. She began as a Direct Support Professional (DSP) in our day program, transitioned to our Residential program, then studied and became a Behavioral Health Technician. After our day program reopened in September 2020 due to the pandemic, Tamara worked as a DSP in our Life Enrichment program. As we have navigated reopening and bringing more participants back to our campus during this worldwide health emergency, we have experienced many of the same staffing issues that have been prevalent across our industry and others. Tamara has stepped up to take on many roles at Pine Castle over the past year and her flexibility and desire to be continuously learning and evolving as an employee have enabled us to provide our participants with the best possible care every day.

After returning to campus the need arose for help in our Nursing Station. So Tamara worked to become certified as a medication administrator specializing in tube feeding. Once that department was stabilized, she then moved to our Production team to fill a gap there. On top of all the work she has done to learn new roles, she is also currently enrolled in our DSP Apprenticeship Program, which creates defined career advancement opportunities for DSP staff members interested in pursuing professional growth within the organization, while providing the tools they need for success. Her amazing attitude, incredible flexibility, and dedication to both our mission and to the participants she serves in unparalleled. In each new roles she has taken on, Tamara has shown commitment to learning every nuance of the job and doing the best work she can. She consistently exhibits incredible work ethic and continues to grow and challenge herself as an individual.

Her amazing attitude and obvious pride in the work she does and the participants she serves makes her an ideal nominee for DSPs Making A Difference. In each new role she takes on, Tamara shows commitment to learning every nuance of the job and doing the best work she can. She consistently exhibits incredible work ethic and continues to grow and challenge herself as an individual.

Tamara is professional at all times while on the Pine Castle campus, exhibiting integrity and responsibility in her words, interactions, and behavior. Serving many of the same participants in her current role as she did as a Behavioral Heath Technician in our Mental Health Program, Tamara has been able to transfer her skills, understanding of confidentiality needs, and knowledge of participants into her current role in production. These skills have allowed her to create an environment that promotes physical and emotional well-being, while encouraging productivity and teamwork. She uses a person-centered approach in her shop, meeting regularly with each participant and providing them with the feedback and support they need to reach their goals. If a participant indicates that they would like to make a change to their goals or care plan, she is a great advocate to help them find the support they need to thrive.

The participants who work with Tamara love her. She leads by example, learning each new job before training the participants. She values the relationships she builds with them, getting to know each individual well and building an understanding of their strengths and struggles. She then uses this knowledge to ensure each person has the tools they need and stays focused on the task at hand. She fosters a non-intimidating environment that is focused on learning, educating, and helping her participants to buy in to making good choices. She is able to achieve strong results with those she serves through positive reinforcement, allowing natural consequences to take place when appropriate, and supporting the participants in correcting and leaning from their mistakes. She also empowers the more independent participants in her shop to help guide and support those who need assistance, encouraging a peer-to-peer support system that brings the team together and builds positive relationships between participants.

Tamara goes above and beyond to ensure justice, fairness, and equity by working with each participant closely to alleviate problems they encounter when advocating for their rights, and working through any barriers holding them back from achieving their goals. She works to uplift each person by using positive speech and encouragement through every step of the goal-setting and achievement process. She provides a patient and listening ear to each of the clients she serves and ensures they feel heard and respected. Tamara has a passion for our clients that is evident even during simple conversations with her and she takes her role very seriously. She has become a leader among our direct support team, constantly pushing herself to reach new milestones and learn new skills to make her better at her job. She sets an example of excellence for everyone she encounters, and she not only ensures that she is upholding the highest professional and ethical standards, but that her coworkers are doing the same.

Tamara is just one of thousands of DSPs in Florida who are doing this vital work to help adults with differences to be more successful, reach their goals, and integrate into their communities.

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