Frontline Initiative: Making Direct Support a Career

DSPs reflect on the Code of Ethics for Professional Practice


Natalie Place is a DSP-III at Penn-Mar Human Services in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania

Marta Campos is a DSP at Tierra Del Sol Foundation in Sunland, California

Carmela Cheatum is a DSP at Community Connections, Inc. in Winner, South Dakota

Natalie Place

Natalie Place 

I truly enjoy supporting people in having meaningful, self-directed lives. When I first worked as a DSP 10 years ago, the culture was so different than it is today. People we support would get home from Day Program. Almost immediately, they get into their pajamas for the night. What kind of life was that? Today, the people I support have relationships with others. They have community jobs. They have meaningful relationships outside of paid supports. They are living a life like mine. They are directing their own lives and making choices. That is what keeps me working as a DSP. 

The Code of Ethics is an incredible tool for a DSP. There were times I felt so lost, unheard, and defeated. Having this tool helped ground me. It empowered me to continue to provide the best direct support I could. I feel it keeps us in line. When I feel lost or defeated it gives the guidance of where to go and how to get there. I have the Code of Ethics posted on the wall where I work for a quick reference for me and for other DSPs as well.

Marta Campos

I became a DSP 15 years ago. I was referred by a friend who was working at Tierra. My friend loved the work. When I started I was a little bit nervous. I didn’t have previous experience, but Tierra gave me the opportunity to learn. I really love the uplifting atmosphere. Co-workers and the people we support were very friendly. They made me feel welcome.

Marta Campos and Irma Ortiz at Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles, California

When I’m driving to work I think about what I do and why I do it. I have helped a lot of people throughout the years to learn new skills and move on to employment. Seeing people learn and being valued for who they are keeps me motivated to keep doing my job. I have learned a lot from the people I support. When I support someone to be accepted and valued in their community I feel that I make a difference in someone's life. I truly believe that the people I support are what has made me stay at Tierra for so many years.

Using principles from the Code of Ethics creates the environment needed to fully support people to make choices. When we practice all the values in the Code of Ethics the people we support get what is needed for them to be more independent. We are challenged to listen to what they want and advocate for their needs. We want to help them to be valued in their community. Learning more about the Code of Ethics in the E-badge Academy, I combined 15 years of experience and new knowledge. It helped me to focus more on the people that I support. I was challenged to be more flexible and creative. This was an important change in my professional practice.

Carmela Cheatum

Carmela Cheatum

There are so many things that keeps me working as a DSP. As we all know it is not for the money. It is such a joy to assist people in daily living, to see their smile when they accomplish a task or goal they have set for themselves. I like to know that I can advocate for a person supported when needed. Their rights are the same as mine. I enjoy encouraging, educating and supporting people to make contacts in the community. I enjoy supporting at local events in our area. The sky is the limit for everyone to accomplish what they set their mind to. It gives me pride to assist them in making their dreams come true!

I use the Code of Ethics in every shift as a DSP.  I use my skills and knowledge to create an environment to fully support people in making choices. The Code of Ethics guides me to make support plans in the best interest of the people I support. It is guidelines to help people make good choices in their lives. The Code of Ethics is like a road map to assist DSPs in staying the course of securing freedom, justice, and equality to all people supported.