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Services with people with intellectual disabilities (ID) are increasingly structured by regulations, policies and licensing standards by public funding entities. The key responsibility for direct care staff often becomes that of compliance with all the rules and regulations.The impact of an increasing focus on compliance with regulations in the systems of services and supports for people with ID is explored along with the absence of focus on professional commitment and relationships. This exploration is done through a review of literature and also anecdotes and observations from 30 years of professional experience in working with direct care staff.Whether the source for enhanced regulation is concern about health and safety, honouring rights, meeting laws and/or an underlying fear that we cannot rely on the caregivers because of the turnover or lack of skill; we end up building a system based more and more on compliance, on regulations, programme and behavioural plans and competencies, without the same kind of concern or attention for people who are doing the caring, their motivation and what they need. One of the hypotheses and conclusions of this article is that the focus on compliance diminishes professional competence and commitment, and contributes both to staff disillusionment and to the rapid turnover.As recruitment and turnover in the direct support professional workforce become ever more difficult problems, the newer focus on person-centred planning, self-directed supports and workforce development have both possibilities and problems in enhancing staff commitment in relationships with people they support. The importance of enhancing and supporting commitment also calls for new forms of professional identity and education that recapture the language and habits of commitment while also providing opportunities for staff to reflect on the values, visions and commitments that support their work.