Frontline Initiative Person-Centered Practices

How close can we get?
A look at the NADSP Code of Ethics and how it supports person-centered services in a system-centered world

How do the NADSP Code of Ethics support person-centered services in a system-centered world? The NADSP Code of Ethics answers an overdue demand for social justice and equity for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (ID/DD). However, workforce transformation does not come without challenges. A culture shift is needed in organizations. The NADSP Code of Ethics provides an exciting opportunity to develop skills in a person-centered approach.

DSPs must commit to adopt and own the NADSP Code of Ethics, otherwise the change we seek will be just another “house of cards.” Creating change within the organization where you work is a great place to start. DSPs can influence an organization’s culture. Industry leader Regis Obijiski explains, “Culture is a blend of beliefs, styles, values and relationships that has a distinctive feel. Because it is a matter of feel, there is a reluctance to talk about it with any specificity. We usually take culture for granted and work around it. In fact, we cannot work around it or ignore it because we are in the middle of it; it is the environment where we function. Cultural understanding is useful for everyone embedded in an organization, but it is essential for leaders and DSPs” (Obijiski, 2014). Does your culture support the NADSP Code of Ethics?

The NADSP Code of Ethics is like a “GPS navigational tool.” It guides DSPs in providing supports that are based on peoples’ choices. These include what to eat, how to dress, with whom to have relationships, and how a person spends money and leisure time. The NADSP Code of Ethics affirms the beauty and joy of making choices.

Sadly, we realize that many people with ID/DD have not always had choices honored or considered. The NADSP Code of Ethics helps us evaluate our relationships with the people we serve. The Code helps us begin to answer tough questions in the best interests of the people we support. The NADSP Code of Ethics is NOT a black-and-white answer key for every situation. Human Services tend to get “messy” and “gray.” The Code sets the parameters for our interactions. It has us put the people we support first. The decisions we make flow from the allegiance we have to that person(s). In some cases, it helps us separate our wants and values when they get in the way of providing professional, & ethical services. The NADSP Code of Ethics is intended to be a shared set of values: rooted in choice, respect, and social justice, and wrapped up in a positive relationship. The positive relationship helps us accept, support, empower, mentor, advocate for and teach, the people we support. This shift in today’s workforce transforms us from a caregiver model, to a support professional model.

How close we can come in a system sometimes fueled with fear is a balance between risk and safety. There are many barriers DSPs face that prevents being truly person-centered. Empowering our workforce through knowing and owning the DSP Code of Ethics helps create a lasting profession that stands the test of time. They support the interests for the people being supported. 

As a DSP, my first allegiance is to the person I support; all other activities and functions I perform flow from this allegiance. I will:

  • Recognize that each person must direct his or her own life and support and that the unique social network, circumstances, personality, preferences, needs and gifts of each person I support must be the primary for guide the selection, structure, and use of supports for that individual.
  • Commit to person-centered supports as best practice.
  • Provide advocacy when the needs of the system override those of the individual(s) I support, or when individual preferences, needs or gifts are neglected for other reasons.
  • Honor the personality, preferences, culture and gifts of people who cannot speak by seeking other ways of understanding them.
  • Focus first on the person, and understand that my role in direct supports will require flexibility, creativity and commitment.