Frontline Initiative: DSPs Using the NADSP Code of Ethics

Best Foot Forward


Mercy Johnson is a direct support professional, and Sharmen Clark is a community support facilitator at Values Into Action in Media, Pennsylvania. Mercy can be reached at and Sharmen can be reach at

A selfie of a man and a woman from the shoulders up. The man is on the left, wearing a red shirt and smiling towards the upper right corner of the photo. The woman is on the right, wearing gold hoop earrings and a black shirt, and she is smiling towards the camera.

Gino and Mercy take a selfie.


My name is Mercy Johnson. I’ve been employed as a support partner, a role known professionally as a direct support professional (DSP), with Values Into Action for over two years now. My career in human service started when I was 18 years of age as a caregiver to people with dementia. From my experience in that role, I came to know just how fragile and ironic life can be. It made me realize that none of us are invincible, so it is absolutely important that we treat the people we are supporting with the utmost respect, kindness, and love—the same as we would like to be treated if we were more vulnerable. Over the years since I started in this field, I have been very fortunate to be able to work with and support many people with disabilities. It is important to me to be able to show up to work as a DSP with my “best foot forward” and an even better attitude towards the individual I support in order to help them achieve their goals, to the best of their abilities.

It is important to me to be able to show up to work as a DSP with my “best foot forward” and an even better attitude towards the individual I support in order to help them achieve their goals, to the best of their abilities.

A man stands in a kitchen to the left of a sink mixing a bowl of brownie batter. He is wearing a blue shirt and a patterned lanyard.

Gino prepares brownies.

I have been blessed to work with many amazing companies over the years. All of them put the needs of the people we serve as the highest priority. When I came to work for Values Into Action (Values), that was apparent right away. Something that made Values stand out to me was the dedication with matching the person accepting support with the right DSP. Values understand the importance of employees being healthy and happy, and the leaders ensure that the DSPs are in good spirits and in a healthy mental space, both professionally and personally.

My role at Values is very important to me and has given me great fulfillment. I am able to care about and assist Gino, a person I have come to consider as important to me as my family. Gino is grateful to see me walk through the door. We continue to learn from each other and have both added value to each other’s lives. It gives me great pleasure to witness Gino growing as we work together, especially around his health needs.


My name is Sharmen Clark, and I am a community support facilitator at Values Into Action. I work with Mercy and admire her and Gino for the relationship they have built together. Mercy’s work in support of Gino reflects the NADSP Code of Ethics, and in this article, highlights specifically promoting physical and emotional well-being.

Mercy consistently balances the need to speak directly and honestly with Gino about his health. Gino trusts Mercy enough to accept her encouragement and suggestions even when it may be hard to hear. As someone who loves good food that isn’t always the healthiest (is it ever?), Gino works with Mercy to make better food choices and this has included learning to cook for himself for the week, as he does not need—and will not accept—support every day. Together, they make a menu and grocery list and go shopping, where Mercy helps Gino to understand the importance of knowing what is in the food we buy. Gino is visually impaired so Mercy provided support by reading food labels, guiding him to select those that are the best given some of his physical health challenges, and navigating the grocery store. This support is important to Gino.

They then prepare and cook his meals for the week, with Gino increasingly taking the lead. He chooses what to eat and heats up meals for himself when he wants. Gino is learning new recipes and has found cooking to actually be fun.

Just as important is Gino being active. He and Mercy enjoy spending time outside in parks and recently went bowling together. They both said they put their best foot forward and had some fun!

Mercy states she has, “always taken pride in being a dedicated worker. The company and person I work for have given me the opportunity and motivation to build my skills.”

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