Article

Frontline Initiative Code of Ethics

NADSP Code of Ethics:
Let's pledge to live by the Code

Author

Tom Harmon is a consultant at the New York State Association of Community and Residential Agencies (NYSACRA)

 2011 was a wakeup call for all in New York State’s intellectual and developmental disabilities service community. It began with a front-page article in the New York Times, “At state-run homes, abuse and impunity” (March 12, 2011). New York, however, was not alone. Here are some other recent headlines from around the country —

  • “Starvation case shows abuse in state system” (Dayton Daily News, Ohio, January 8, 2012)

  • “Streamwood health worker charged with abusing disabled boy” (The Daily Herald, Illinois, December 20, 2011)

  • “Summit needed on vulnerable Iowans: Incidents raise questions about state officials’ responses” (The Gazette, Iowa, September 22, 2011)

  • “Is D.C. neglecting neglect?” (Washington City Paper, Washington, DC, May 27, 2011)

  • “Disability workers rarely prosecuted for violence” (Texas Tribune, Texas, January 20, 2010)

  • “Funding for group homes pulled after abuse” (The Daytona Beach News Journal, Florida, April 15, 2011)


 

In New York State, and undoubtedly elsewhere, these articles have led to calls for reform. Reform that includes better reporting of abuse; better investigation of reports; increased involvement of law enforcement authorities; and swifter administrative and criminal action against those responsible for abuse. 

In the history of human services, be they institutionally or community based, abuse is not new. Improving efforts to identify abuse, investigate it, and weed out perpetrators through improved administrative and criminal action is good. But it is also like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. A new remedy that prevents or reduces the likelihood of abuse from occurring in the first place is what’s needed. Universal adherence to NADSP’s Code of Ethics offers just that. Abuse comes in many forms. For most, the term brings up images of brutal acts. But abuse also happens under less sinister situations. Abuse can happen when DSPs are put in situations for which they are not well trained, when they are asked to do more than is humanly possible, or when in stressful situations without any assistance. Unfortunately there are many situations that can too easily turn into one of neglect or abuse. This is a problem that is larger than just the DSP, and must be addressed as a shared responsibility. Nonetheless, DSPs are the direct link to the individual. For a moment, consider just several of the tenets of NADSP’s Code of Ethics.

Consider what a DSP who subscribes to this Code would do if he or she witnesses a fellow staff endangering an individual.

  • How about a DSP who is in a situation for which she or he was not properly trained, or asked to do something that is not possible?
  • What would the Code demand that she or he do?
  • If you are a DSP, have you pledged to live by the Code?
  • If you are a program manager or administrator, will you provide DSPs with the opportunity to learn, practice and live the Code?
  • If you are a self-advocate or family member, will you require that those providing supports know and live by the Code?

Recent news has created the opportunity for DSPs to change the course of human service history. This change will happen by embracing and living the Code of Ethics.

If you are a DSP, have you pledged to live by the Code?

If you are a program manager or administrator, will you provide DSPs with the opportunity to learn, practice and live the Code?

If you are a self-advocate or family member, will you require that those providing supports know and live by the Code? 

By embracing a person-centered Code of Ethics we can seize the opportunity to end abuse.