Healthcare in the United States is undergoing some exciting changes in defining and delivering services to those in need. Human Services now takes its place among the field of professionals administering aid. Follow us as we explore this growing and developing field with a group of college students pursuing a Human Services Leadership Degree online through the University of Wisconsin. Their diversity, exhibited in both their individual and professional aspirations, gives us a glimpse into this exciting and emerging career path. What is Human Services?
This question can lead to a variety of responses. Human services, for two of our members, meant activities or programs designed to serve and enhance the quality of life for all people; a field that assists individuals or families with conditions and obstacles they may be facing or simply services that assist them in improving their quality of life. Another member looked at Human Services in a theoretical sense, and saw it as “the field of humane, compassionate, person-centered care that has, and continues to develop, as the result of an evolving, collective human and social consciousness”.
The book Human Services: Concepts and Intervention Strategies defines Human Services as “a phrase that is often used to group activities that focus on helping people live better lives” (Mehr & Kanwischer, 2011 p. 2). One thing is certain; each of our responses reflects ways in which we aspire to understand how to help people achieve this goal. Who governs Human Services? Roman philosopher Cicero stated “justice commands us to have mercy on all” (Mehr & Kanwischer, 2011, p. 17).
If the field of human services shares a history that can be traced back to antiquity, then a society or culture defines the concept of needy and considers an appropriate response to human problems (Mehr & Kanwischer, 2011, p. 15). Ultimately, it is The People who govern human services. A major shift in perception occurred in the 1500’s; forwarding the idea that civil government should address needs of persons through civil legislation (Mehr & Kanwischer, 2011, p. 17). This notes the first move to make governing bodies responsible for human services.
Henceforth, social welfare would be seen as having a dual role; provision of charitable relief and a means of correcting behavior (p. 17). Because we drive social policy changes as a population, human service workers have an obligation to pursue greater influence in social policy development (Mehr & Kanwischer, 2011, p. 12). It is incumbent on all Human Service professionals to take responsibility at all levels of government, use systems approaches to consider human problems, and be involved in progressive social change (Wikipedia, Human Services). How did the history of Human Services Develop?
The Industrial Revolution brought workhouses and many other institutions to aid in the shelter and employment of the “worthy poor”. After witnessing poor conditions in many of the mental institutions that were established at the time, Dorothea Dix recognized a need for improved services for those who were mentally challenged. According to Mehr and Kanwischer (2011), “Her main efforts were focused on the plight of the insane, but her reform efforts were also significant in the areas of corrections, education, poverty, and the provision of physical health services to the indigent. (p. 18) Her lobbying resulted in the establishment of over thirty mental hospitals in Europe and the United States and also influenced the different areas of Human Services across the field. As the years progressed, there became recognition by those in our society to improve the conditions of those in need. As the needs continued to grow, so did the field of Human Services. What allow this field to develop differently from others are the collective contributions made from society as a whole.
Dorothea Dix wasn’t considered a Human Service professional in the direct sense we relate to it today, but she still managed to make a difference. At her core, she was simply a person who saw a need for change and committed herself to making it happen. The history of Human Services developed with these kinds of pioneers. The Human Services field is unique in that it will always continue to grow and redefine itself as our social environment changes (Mehr, Joseph J. , & Kanwischer, Ronald A History of Helping in Human Services Concepts and Intervention Strategies 11th Edition Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2011 pp. 5-29). What types of rules do Human Service professionals follow? Aside from the laws that govern Human Service professionals, the human service worker must be familiar with their specific agency rules as well as professional guidelines. One such guideline is the Code of Ethics which is outlined by the National Association of Social Workers. These guidelines include service, social justice, dignity and worth of a person, importance of human relationships, integrity and competence.
The NASW Code of Ethics reflects the commitment of all social workers to uphold the profession’s values and to act ethically (http://www. socialworkers. org/pubs/code/code. asp. ). The code is essentially a set of values that standards that help to guide the professional in making decisions that are in the best interest of the client, agency and professional. In a variety of areas of the human service profession, potential ethical violation can include informed consent, confidentiality, boundaries, and respect for religious, cultural, and other differences.
An understanding of relevant state laws and professional guidelines are essential to reduce potential ethical violations. The Code of ethics helps to govern these ideals. There will be instances in which agency rules or personal belief systems may conflict with the specific need of a client. This is just one instance in which the Code of Ethics should be followed. What are some other types of helping professions? According to the web site www. linkedin. om, a helping profession is defined as “A profession that nurtures the growth of or addresses the problems of a person’s physical, psychological, intellectual, emotional or spiritual well-being, including medicine, nursing, psychotherapy, psychological counseling, social work, education, life coaching and ministry. ” With such a broad definition it is easy to see how a variety of professions fit into this category. Some examples of helping professions other than human service professionals are as follows: a social worker, pastor, therapist, academic counselor, psychiatrist, teacher, and medical doctor.
As human service professionals and/or students, it is clear that the range of services that we can provide are unlimited; our primary goals lie in benefiting the client and assisting them with increasing their quality of life (Linkedin. Retrieved on October 12th, 2012, from http://www. linkedin. com/groups/Helping-Profession-Network-3880316). How are the helping professions similar? The human service field is a subsection of the helping professions. Those who work in the human service field share the goal of providing healthy and safe care for individuals in time of struggle or need.
All helping professions have similar or overlapping core activities or business processes such as needs assessment, program planning, case management, information and referral, research, evaluation, communication, and reporting. The human service system has been developed as an extension to the principles, guidelines, and concepts of the traditional helping profession (Mehr ; Kanwischer, 2011, pp. 3, 10). This extension aids in enhancing methods and technologies used to help people in need. Human Services has established a set of ethical standards unique to its field.
Some similarities with other helping professions include, but are not limited to, respect, confidentiality, provide services without discrimination, avoid/not engage in dual relationships with the client, not practice outside scope of professional knowledge, seek supervision when needed, and continued education. What makes the helping professions different? Human Service workers act as liaisons between clients and care providers and are trained to recognize when emotional support and encouragement are not enough.
Human Service professionals do not perform tasks beyond their scope of training and are educated to understand and identify these boundaries. For example, human service workers are not involved in diagnosing and prescribing treatment for psychiatric or medical problems (Mehr ; Kanwischer, 2011, p. 47). Human Service professionals take a stronger focus on the goal of change. This focus includes change in clients’ behavior, change in the behavior of others towards their clients, or change in larger social systems such as agencies, communities, or other major sociopolitical systems (Mehr ; Kanwischer, 2011, p. 40).