Human Services Professional Essay Examples
Ethical Standards for Human Services Professionals
National Organization of Human Services adopted 2015
Human services is a profession developed in response to the direction of human needs and human problems in the 1960's. Characterized by an appreciation of human beings in all of their diversity, human services offers assistance to its clients within the context of their communities and environments. Human service professionals and those who educate them promote and encourage the unique values and characteristics of human services. In so doing, human service professionals uphold the integrity and ethics of the profession, promote client and community well-being, and enhance their own professional growth.
The fundamental values of the human services profession include respecting the dignity and welfare of all people; promoting self-determination; honoring cultural diversity; advocating for social justice; and acting with integrity, honesty, genuineness and objectivity.
Human service professionals consider these standards in ethical and professional decision making. Conflicts may exist between this code and laws, workplace policies, cultural practices, credentialing boards, and personal beliefs. Ethical-decision making processes should be employed to assure careful choices. Although ethical codes are not legal documents, they may be used to address issues related to the behavior of human service professionals.
Persons who use this code include members of the National Organization for Human Services, students in relevant academic degree programs, faculty in those same programs, researchers, administrators, and professionals in community agencies who identify with the profession of human services. The ethical standards are organized in sections around those persons to whom ethical practice should be applied.
Responsibility to Clients
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STANDARD 1 Human service professionals recognize and build on client and community strengths.
STANDARD 2 Human service professionals obtain informed consent to provide services to clients at the beginning of the helping relationship. Clients should be informed that they may withdraw consent at any time except where denied by court order and should be able to ask questions before agreeing to the services. Clients who are unable to give consent should have those who are legally able to give consent for them review an informed consent statement and provide appropriate consent.
STANDARD 3 Human service professionals protect the client's right to privacy and confidentiality except when such confidentiality would cause serious harm to the client or others, when agency guidelines state otherwise, or under other stated conditions (e.g., local, state, or federal laws). Human service professionals inform clients of the limits of confidentiality prior to the onset of the helping relationship.
STANDARD 4 If it is suspected that danger or harm may occur to the client or to others as a result of a client's behavior, the human service professional acts in an appropriate and professional manner to protect the safety of those individuals. This may involve, but is not limited to, seeking consultation, supervision, and/or breaking the confidentiality of the relationship.
STANDARD 5 Human service professionals recognize that multiple relationships may increase the risk of harm to or exploitation of clients and may impair their professional judgment. When it is not feasible to avoid dual or multiple relationships, human service professionals should consider whether the professional relationship should avoided or curtailed.
STANDARD 6 Sexual or romantic relationships with current clients are prohibited. Before engaging in sexual or romantic relationships with former clients, friends, or family members of former clients, human service professionals carefully evaluate potential exploitation or harm and refrain from entering into such a relationship.
STANDARD 7 Human service professionals ensure that their values or biases are not imposed upon their clients.
STANDARD 8 Human service professionals protect the integrity, safety, and security of client records. Client information in written or electronic form that is shared with other professionals must have the client's prior written consent except in the course of professional supervision or when legally obliged or permitted to share such information.
STANDARD 9 When providing services through the use of technology, human service professionals take precautions to ensure and maintain confidentiality and comply with all relevant laws and requirements regarding storing, transmitting, and retrieving data. In addition, human service professionals ensure that clients are aware of any issues and concerns related to confidentiality, service issues, and how technology might negatively or positively impact the helping relationship.
Responsibility to the Public and Society
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STANDARD 10 Human service professionals provide services without discrimination or preference in regards to age, ethnicity, culture, race, ability, gender, language preference, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, nationality, or other historically oppressed groups.
STANDARD 11 Human service professionals are knowledgeable about their cultures and communities within which they practice. They are aware of multiculturalism in society and its impact on the community as well as individuals within the community. They respect the cultures and beliefs of individuals and groups.
STANDARD 12 Human service professionals are aware of local, state, and federal laws. They advocate for change in regulations and statutes when such legislation conflicts with ethical guidelines and/or client rights. Where laws are harmful to individuals, groups, or communities, human service professionals consider the conflict between the values of obeying the law and the values of serving people and may decide to initiate social action.
STANDARD 13 Human service professionals stay informed about current social issues as they affect clients and communities. If appropriate to the helping relationship, they share this information with clients, groups and communities as part of their work.
STANDARD 14 Human service professionals are aware of social and political issues that differentially affect clients from diverse backgrounds.
STANDARD 15 Human service professionals provide a mechanism for identifying client needs and assets, calling attention to these needs and assets, and assisting in planning and mobilizing to advocate for those needs at the individual, community, and societal level when appropriate to the goals of the relationship.
STANDARD 16 Human service professionals advocate for social justice and seek to eliminate oppression. They raise awareness of underserved population in their communities and with the legislative system.
STANDARD 17 Human service professionals accurately represent their qualifications to the public. This includes, but is not limited to, their abilities, training, education, credentials, academic endeavors, and areas of expertise. They avoid the appearance of misrepresentation or impropriety and take immediate steps to correct it if it occurs.
STANDARD 18 Human service professionals describe the effectiveness of treatment programs, interventions and treatments, and/or techniques accurately, supported by data whenever possible.
Responsibility to Colleagues
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STANDARD 19 Human service professionals avoid duplicating another professional's helping relationship with a client. They consult with other professionals who are assisting the client in a different type of relationship when it is in the best interest of the client to do so. In addition, human services professionals seek ways to actively collaborate and coordinate with other professionals when appropriate.
STANDARD 20 When human service professionals have a conflict with a colleague, they first seeks out the colleague in an attempt to manage the problem. If this effort fails, the professional then seeks the assistance of supervisors, consultants, or other professionals in efforts to address the conflict.
STANDARD 21 Human service professionals respond appropriately to unethical and problematic behavior of colleagues. Usually this means initially talking directly with the colleague and if no satisfactory resolution is achieved, reporting the colleague's behavior to supervisory or administrative staff.
STANDARD 22 All consultations between human service professionals are kept private, unless to do so would result in harm to clients or communities.
Responsibility to Employers
STANDARD 23 To the extent possible, human service professionals adhere to commitments made to their employers.
STANDARD 24 Human service professionals participate in efforts to establish and maintain employment conditions which are conducive to high quality client services. Whenever possible, they assist in evaluating the effectiveness of the agency through reliable and valid assessment measures.
STANDARD 25 When a conflict arises between fulfilling the responsibility to the employer and the responsibility to the client, human service professionals work with all involved to manage the conflict.
Responsibility to the Profession
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STANDARD 26 Human service professionals seek the training, experience, education and supervision necessary to ensure their effectiveness in working with culturally diverse individuals based on age, ethnicity, culture, race, ability, gender, language preference, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, nationality, or other historically oppressive groups. In addition, they will strive to increase their competence in methods which are known to be the best fit for the population(s) with whom they work.
STANDARD 27 Human service professionals know the limit and scope of their professional knowledge and offer services only within their knowledge, skill base, and scope of practice.
STANDARD 28 Human service professionals seek appropriate consultation and supervision to assist in decision-making when there are legal, ethical or other dilemmas.
STANDARD 29 Human service professionals promote cooperation among related disciplines to foster professional growth and to optimize the impact of inter-professional collaboration on clients at all levels.
STANDARD 30 Human service professionals promote the continuing development of their profession. They encourage membership in professional associations, support research endeavors, foster educational advancement, advocate for appropriate legislative actions, and participate in other related professional activities.
STANDARD 31 Human service professionals continually seek out new and effective approaches to enhance their professional abilities and use techniques that are conceptually or evidence based. When practicing techniques that are experimental or new, they inform clients of the status of such techniques as well as the possible risks.
STANDARD 32 Human service professionals conduct research that adheres to all ethical principles, institutional standards, and scientific rigor. Such research takes into consideration cross-cultural bias and is reported in a manner that addressed any limitations.
STANDARD 33 Human service professionals make careful decisions about disclosing personal information while using social media, knowing that they reflect the profession of human services. In addition, they consider how their public conduct may reflect on themselves and their profession.
Responsibility to Self
STANDARD 34 Human service professionals are aware of their own cultural backgrounds, beliefs, values, and biases. They recognize the potential impact of their backgrounds on their relationships with others and work diligently to provide culturally competent service to all of their clients.
STANDARD 35 Human service professionals strive to develop and maintain healthy personal growth to ensure that they are capable of giving optimal services to clients. When they find that they are physically, emotionally, psychologically, or otherwise not able to offer such services, they identify alternative services for clients.
STANDARD 36 Human service professionals hold a commitment to lifelong learning and continually advance their knowledge and skills to serve clients more effectively.
Responsibility to Students
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STANDARD 37 Human service educators develop and implement culturally sensitive knowledge, awareness, and teaching methodologies.
STANDARD 38 Human service educators are committed to the principles of access and inclusion and take all available and applicable steps to make education available to differently-abled students.
STANDARD 39 Human service educators demonstrate high standards of scholarship in their scholarship, pedagogy, and professional service and stay current in the field by being members of their professional associations, attending workshops and conferences, and reviewing and/or conducting research.
STANDARD 40 Human service educators recognize and acknowledge the contributions of students to the work of the educator in such activities as case material, grants, workshops, research, publications, and other related activities.
STANDARD 41 Human service educators monitor students' field experiences to ensure the quality of the placement site, supervisory experience, and learning experience towards the goals of personal, professional, academic, career, and civic development. When students experience potentially harmful events during field placements, educators provide reasonable investigation and response as necessary to safeguard the student.
STANDARD 42 Human service educators establish and uphold appropriate guidelines concerning student disclosure of sensitive/personal information which includes letting students have fair warning of any self-disclosure activities, allowing students to opt-out of in-depth self-disclosure activities when feasible, and ensuring that a mechanism is available to discuss and process such activities as needed.
STANDARD 43 Human service educators are aware that in their relationships with students, power and status are unequal. Human service educators are responsible to clearly define and maintain ethical and professional relationships with student; avoid conduct that is demeaning, embarrassing or exploitative of students; and always strive to treat students fairly, equally and without discrimination.
STANDARD 44 Human service educators ensure students are familiar with, informed by, and accountable to the ethical standards and policies put forth by their program/department, the course syllabus/instructor, their advisor(s), and the Ethical Standards of Human Service Professionals.
For more information regarding Ethical Standard please email the NOHS Ethics Chair
Human services is an interdisciplinary field with the objective of meeting human needs through an applied knowledge base, focusing on prevention as well as remediation of problems, and maintaining a commitment to improving the overall quality of life of service populations. The process involves the study of social technologies (practice methods, models, and theories), service technologies (programs, organizations, and systems), and scientific innovations that are designed to ameliorate problems and enhance the quality of life of individuals, families and communities to improve the delivery of service with better coordination, accessibility and accountability. The mission of human services is to promote a practice that involves simultaneously working at all levels of society (whole-person approach) in the process of promoting the autonomy of individuals or groups, making informal or formal human services systems more efficient and effective, and advocating for positive social change within society.
Human services practitioners strive to advance the autonomy of service users through civic engagement, education, health promotion and social change at all levels of society. Practitioners also engage in advocating so human systems remain accessible, integrated, efficient and effective.
Human services academic programs can be readily found in colleges and universities, which award degrees at the associate, baccalaureate, and graduate levels. Human services programs exist in countries all around the world.
Human services has its roots in charitable activities of religious and civic organizations that date back to the Colonial period. However, the academic discipline of human services did not start until the 1960s. At that time, a group of college academics started the new human services movement and began to promote the adoption of a new ideology about human service delivery and professionalism among traditional helping disciplines. The movement's major goal was to make service delivery more efficient, effective, and humane. The other goals dealt with the reeducation of traditional helping professionals (interprofessional education), to have a greater appreciation of the individual as a whole person (humanistic psychology) and to be accountable to the communities they serve (postmodernism). Furthermore, professionals would learn to take responsibility at all levels of government, use systems approaches to consider human problems, and be involved in progressive social change.
Traditional academic programs such as education, nursing, social work, law and medicine were resistant to the new human services movement's ideology because it appeared to challenge their professional status. Changing the traditional concept of professionalism involved rethinking consumer control and the distribution of power. The new movement also called on human service professionals to work for social change. It was proposed that the reduction of the monopolistic control of professionals could result in democratization of knowledge and would lead to professionals advocating on behalf of clients and communities against professional establishments. The movement also hoped that human service delivery systems would become integrated, comprehensive, and more accessible, which would make them more humane for service users. Ultimately, the resistance from traditional helping professions served as the impetus for a group of educators in higher education to start the new academic discipline of human services.
Some maintain that the human services discipline has a concrete identity as a profession that supplements and complements other traditional professions. Yet other professionals and scholars have not agreed upon an authoritative definition for human services.
Chenault and Burnford argued that human services programs must educate and train students at the graduate or postgraduate level if human services hoped to be considered a professional discipline. A progressive graduate human services program was established by Audrey Cohen (1932–1996), who was considered an innovative educator for her time. The Audrey Cohen College of Human Services, now called the Metropolitan College of New York, offered one of the first graduate programs in 1974. In the same time period, Springfield College in Massachusetts became a major force in preserving human services as an academic discipline. Currently, Springfield College is one of the oldest and largest human services program in the United States.
Manpower studies in the 1960s and 70s had shown that there would be a shortage of helping professionals in an array of service delivery areas. In turn, some educators proposed that the training of nonprofessionals (e.g., mental health technicians)could bridge this looming personnel shortage. One of the earliest educational initiatives to develop undergraduate curricula was undertaken by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), which was funded by the National Institute on Health. Professionals of the SREB Undergraduate Social Welfare Manpower Project helped colleges develop new social welfare programs, which later became known as human services. Some believed that community college human services programs were the most expedient way to train paraprofessionals for direct service jobs in areas such as mental health. Currently, a large percentage of human services programs are run at the community college level.
The development of community college human services programs was supported with government funding that was earmarked for the federal new careers initiatives. In turn, the federally funded New Careers Program was created to produce a nonprofessional career track for economically disadvantaged, underemployed, and unemployed adults as a strategy to eradicate poverty within society and to end a critical shortage of health-care personnel. Graduates from these programs successfully acquired employment as paraprofessionals, but there were limitations to their upward mobility within social service agencies because they lacked a graduate or professional degree.
Currently, there are academic programs in human services at the associate, baccalaureate, and graduate levels. There are approximately 600 human services programs throughout the United States. An online directory of human services programs lists many (but not all) of the programs state by state in conjunction with their accreditation status from the Council of Standards for Human Services Education (CSHSE).
The CSHSE offers accreditation for human services programs in higher education. The accreditation process is voluntary and labor-intensive; it is designed to assure the quality, consistency, and relevance of human service education through research-based standards and a peer-review process. According to the CSHSE's webpage there are only 43 accredited human services programs in the United States. The Standards for each level of degree accredited by CSHSE can be obtained by clicking on the following links:
- National Standards for Associate Degree in Human Services
- National Standards for a Baccalaureate Degree in Human Services
- National Standards for a Masters Degree in Human Services
Human services curricula are based on an interdisciplinary knowledge foundation that allows students to consider practical solutions from multiple disciplinary perspectives. Across the curriculum human services students are often taught to view human problems from a socioecological perspective (developed by Urie Bronfenbrenner) that involves viewing human strengths and problems as interconnected to a family unit, community, and society. This perspective is considered a “whole-person perspective”. Overall, undergraduate programs prepare students to be human services generalists while master’s programs prepare students to be human services administrators, and doctoral programs prepare students to be researcher-analysts and college-level educators. Research in this field focuses on an array of topics that deal with direct service issues, case management, organizational change, management of human service organizations, advocacy,community organizing, community development, social welfare policy, service integration, multiculturalism, integration of technology, poverty issues, social justice, development, and social change strategies.
Certification and continuing education
The Center for Credentialing & Education (CCE) conceptualized the Human Services-Board Certified Practitioner (HS-BCP) credential with the assistance of the National Organization for Human Services (NOHS) and the Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE). The credential was created for human services practitioners seeking to advance their careers by acquiring independent verification of their practical knowledge and educational background.
Graduates from human services programs can obtain a Human Services Board Certified Practitioner (HS-BCP) credential offered by the Center for Credentialing & Education (CCE). The HS-BCP certification ensures that human services practitioners offer quality services, are competent service providers, are committed to high standards, and adhere to the NOHS Ethical Standards of Human Service Professionals, as well as to help solidify the professional identity of human services practitioners. HS-BCPE Experience Requirements for the certification: HS-BCP applicants must meet post-graduation experience requirements to be eligible to take the examination. However, graduates of a CSHSE accredited degree program may sit for the HS-BCP exam without verifying their human services work experience. Otherwise experience requirements for candidates not from a CSHSE accredited program are as follows: Associate degree with post degree experience requires three years, including a minimum of 4,500 hours; Bachelor’s Degree with post degree experience requires two years, including a minimum of 3,000 hours; Master’s or Doctorate with post degree experience requires one year, including a minimum of 1,500 hours.
The HS-BCP exam is designed to verify a candidate’s human services knowledge. The exam was created as a collaborative effort of human services subject-matter experts and normed on a population of professionals in the field. The HS-BCP exam covers the following areas:
- Assessment, treatment planning, and outcome evaluation
- Theoretical orientation/interventions
- Case management, professional practice, and ethics
- Administration, program development/evaluation, and supervision
Currently, the three major employment roles played by human services graduates include providing direct service, performing administrative work, and working in the community. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the US Department of Labor, the employment of human service assistants is anticipated to grow by 34% through 2016, which is faster than average for all occupations. There will also be excellent job opportunities for individuals with post-secondary degrees. But salaries remain low, which might reflect employers’ lack of understanding of the human services profession.
There are several different professional human services organizations for professionals, educators, and students to join across North America.
The National Organization for Human Services (NOHS) is a professional organization open to educators, professionals, and students interested in current issues in the field of human services. NOHS sponsors an annual conference in different parts of the United States. In addition, there are four independent human services regional organizations: (a) Mid-Atlantic Consortium for Human Services, (b) Midwest Organization for Human Services, (c) New England Organization for Human Service, and the (d) Northwest Human Services Association. All of the regional organizations are also open to educators, professionals, students and each regional organization has an annual conference in different locations throughout their region.
Human services special interest groups also exist within the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) and the American Educational Research Association (AERA). The ASPA subsection is named the Section on Health and Human Services Administration and its purpose is to foster the development of knowledge, understanding and practice in the fields of health and human services administration and to foster professional growth and communication among academics and practitioners in these fields. Fields of health and human services administration share a common and unique focus on improving the quality of life through client-centered policies and service transactions.
The AERA special interest group is named the Education, Health and Human Service Linkages. Its purpose is to create a community of researchers and practitioners interested in developing knowledge about comprehensive school health, school linked services, and initiatives that support children and their families. This subgroup also focuses on interpersonal collaboration, integration of services, and interdisciplinary approaches. The group’s interests encompass interrelated policy, practice, and research that challenge efforts to create viable linkages among these three distinct areas.
The American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) is a nonprofit organization that pursues distinction in health and human services by working with policymakers, supporting state and local agencies, and working with partners to promote innovative, integrative and efficient solutions in health and human services policy and practice. APHSA has individual and student memberships.
The Canadian Institute for Human Services is an advocacy, education and action-research organization for the advancement of health equity, progressive education and social innovation. The institute collaborates with researchers, field practitioners, community organizations, socially conscious companies—along with various levels of government and educational institutions—to ensure that the Canadian health and human services sector remains accountable to the greater good of Canadian civil society rather than short-term professional, business or economic gains
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