1. In your own words, describe the steps in the ethical decision-making process. Think of one potential situation that may arise in human services in which there may be a conflict of ethics or where ethical decisions aren’t clear, and apply the ethical decision-making model. If you are unable to come up with your own example, feel free to borrow ideas from the case studies referenced in the readings. Have you ever had to face an ethically unclear situation? If so, how did you handle it? (I started some and picked a topic).One potential situation that may arise where human services may have to step in is immigration. There are many illegal immigrants that come to this country with nothing and need assistance in order to survive. The social worker or human services expert assigned to these cases are obligated to report violators which will then create and break between legal and ethical obligations. Human services exist to help people, not to turn them in and make their situations worse.“Code of ethics includes items that state the goals or aims of the profession, that protect the client, that provide guidance to professional behavior, and that contribute to a professional identity for the helper.” (An Introduction to the Human Services, 2015). The codes of ethics provide guidelines to follow and maintain professional behavior in order to meet limitations when dealing with clients. 2. A career in human service is fulfilling work, but as with all professions, there are specific challenges that human services providers are faced with. Which challenge would you most struggle with? Describe two strategies you can use to effectively deal with this challenge. Remember to support your answer with evidence from the reading or other sources.Instructions: Please be sure to answer each question fully and include references to your textbook and at least 2 supplemental resources. Each response should be at least 500 words in length. You will have the opportunity to save your work and return to it as needed.TWO RESOURCES YOU MAY USE-https://aspe.hhs.gov/basic-report/barriers-immigra…https://www.naswaz.com/page/202
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9 HUMAN SERVICES AND ETHICAL PRACT
After reading this chapter, you will be able to:
• State the purpose and limitations of codes of ethics.
• Summarize the influence of law, diversity, and technology on codes of ethics.
• Write vignettes to illustrate the concerns of competence, responsibility, confidentiality, and client’s
• List the steps in the ethical decision-making model.
• Apply the ethical decision-making model to an ethical dilemma.
This final chapter focuses on the ethics of human service practice. The helper is continually faced
with ethical decisions. Sometimes these issues arise between the professional and the client; other
times there are multiple individuals and even agencies with a stake in the decisions made. The
helper’s responsibilities are not simply to recognize an ethical situation and make the “right”
decision. In fact, ethical practice and decision making require that the helping professional
consider the situation from all points of view, develop a list of issues that represent multiple
viewpoints, generate possible decisions, and weigh carefully the consequences of each decision.
This type of ethical practice demands that the helper have knowledge of the professional code of
ethics, critical thinking skills, an understanding of human behavior, good communication skills,
the ability to establish rapport, and decision-making skills.
In this chapter, you will use your knowledge of the history of human services, the work of the
professional, and the nature of clients and settings to imagine your-self in the role of the helper.
The chapter includes an introduction to codes of ethics, definitions of competence and
responsibility, a discussion of confidentiality, a description of the client’s rights, ethical standards
of human service professionals, and a model for ethical decision making.
As you deliver human services, situations will arise in which you may be unsure about the
appropriate action to take. A third party requests information about a client; you observe a
colleague joking about a client in the break room at work; a client requests information about
obtaining an abortion, but your agency opposes providing this type of information. These situations
represent ethical dilemmas for the human service professional. Even though education and
training in human services emphasize the values of confidentiality, acceptance, individualism, selfdetermination, and tolerance, situations will inevitably occur in which simply possessing these
values will not be enough to determine the right course of action.
The foundation of ethical behavior is based upon principles that are shared by members of the
profession. Professions such as medicine, nursing, psychology, counseling, health, and human
services adhere to similar principles that underlie practice. These principles focus on the way in
which professional helpers work with clients. They include autonomy, nonmaleficence,
beneficence, justice, fidelity, and veracity.
Autonomy represents the commitment to respect a client’s right to define his or her own problems, help
choose interventions, and help evaluate successes and satisfactions. Helpers who provide the client
with autonomy foster self-determination and support client independence.
Nonmaleficence essentially means that the professional will not harm the client. This means that
human service professionals will not take risks that might, in the short or long run, hurt the client.
Beneficence defines an act that is in someone’s best interest. Helpers guided by this principle
provide services or serve as advocates with what the client needs in mind. At times, family
considerations or agency rules and regulations clash with perceived client needs.
Justice as a principle means that the human service professional works tirelessly to promote
equality of access for clients, is fair in all interactions, and is obligated to adhering to the principles of
Fidelity is respecting the trust that clients place in their helpers and guarding against an erosion of
that trust. Helpers are careful to fulfill their responsibilities, keep promises, and be honest in their
interactions with clients.
Veracity means being honest with clients. Human service professionals commit to providing clients
with all of the information that they need and to providing fair and honest feedback.
In the past decade, increased public awareness of professional behavior, coupled with the
passage of federal and state legislation controlling the helping professions, has underscored the
importance of ethical concerns in service delivery. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy
Act of 1974, state legislation requiring the reporting of child abuse, and Tarasoff v. Regents of the
University of California(1976), which imposed a duty to warn potential victims, are examples of
government action that directly affects the ethics of service provision. A more recent example is
the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that went into effect in 2003 and
has greatly impacted informed consent practices. The human service professional must both obey
the law and also be cognizant of the implications of the law.
An exploration of codes of ethics or statements of standards of behavior as guides for
professional behavior begins the next section. Some major areas of ethical concern for the human
service professional follow. Then we describe an ethical decision-making model that can be
applied to dilemmas for which there is no relevant guideline. Vignettes are used to illustrate the
range of dilemmas that may arise.
CODES OF ETHICS
Professionals have responded to the dilemmas of service provision by developing codes of ethics,
or statements of ethical standards of behavior for the members of their profession. Codes of ethics
or ethical standards reflect professional concerns and define the guiding principles of professional
activities. As an aid to ethical decision making in dilemmas arising in service delivery, such
standards or codes help clarify the professional’s responsibilities to clients, to the agency, and to
society. Typically, a code of ethics includes items that state the goals or aims of the profession,
that protect the client, that provide guidance to professional behavior, and that contribute to a
professional identity for the helper. A complete understanding of a code of ethics or ethical
standards requires knowledge of the code’s strengths and purposes as well as its limitations.
PURPOSES AND LIMITATIONS The primary functions of a code of ethics or ethical standards are to
establish guidelines for professional behavior and to assist members of the profession in
establishing a professional identity. Other purposes include providing criteria for evaluating the
ethics of a professional’s practice and serving as a benchmark in the enforcement of ethical
Ethical codes do have limitations; they cannot cover every situation. They do, however, present
a framework for ethical behavior, although their exact interpretation will depend on the situation
to which they are being applied. As a result of this vagueness, codes may have a limited range, and
some codes of ethics will likely conflict with others regarding some standard of behavior. Such
conflicts pose problems for professionals who are members of more than one professional
Other entities that set standards may also issue ethical standards that conflict. For example, a
code may not include a statement relating to the duty to warn, but the California Supreme Court
has ruled in Tarasoff (1976) that there is a duty to warn potential victims of danger. Members who
are bound by a code of ethics must be alert to the possibility that other forums may reach
conclusions that differ from their code. Of course, this is especially critical when the other forum
is a court of law or a legislative body.
Some other limitations of codes of ethics are beyond the scope of this text; however, human
service professionals must be aware that such limitations exist. The professional must develop
ethical reasoning skills to help resolve ethical dilemmas that may arise. A first step in this process
is differentiating ethical dilemmas from situations in which the guidelines are clear. For resolving
problem situations for which there are no specific guidelines, an ethical decision-making model is
presented later in this chapter.
ETHICS AND THE PROFESSION A code of ethics is binding only on the members of the group or
organization that adopts it. Several organizations in human services have issued codes of behavior
expected of their membership—organizations such as the National Organization for Human
Services, the American Counseling Association, the National Council for Social Work Education,
and others in the fields of corrections, mental health, gerontology, and education. Most codes of
ethics stipulate that the helper’s first responsibility is to enhance and protect the client’s welfare.
Codes also give guidance about the helper’s responsibilities to employers, to colleagues in the
profession and other fields, and to society in general.
Ethical codes adopted by a professional association are usually based on the premise that a
profession polices itself. Members of helping professions are assumed to be responsible, sensitive
persons who are accountable for their behavior and the behavior of their colleagues. Selfregulation involves two types of discipline: informal and formal. Informal discipline is seen in the
subtle and not-so-subtle pressure that colleagues exert on one another in the form of consultations,
client referrals, and informal and formal discussions. Formal discipline occurs when professional
associations publicly criticize or censure their members—in extreme cases, barring them from
BOX 9.1 WEB SOURCES
Check out the following organizations to learn more about codes of ethics of major professional
American Counseling Association
American Psychological Association
National Board of Certified Counselors
National Organization for Human Services
CODES OF ETHICS AND THE LAW The law is generally supportive of, or at least neutral toward,
ethical codes and standards. It is supportive in that it enforces minimum standards for practitioners
through licensing requirements and generally protects the confidentiality of statements and records
provided by clients during service provision. It is neutral in that it allows each profession to police
itself and govern the helper’s relations with clients and fellow professionals. The law intervenes
and overrides professional codes of ethics only when necessary to protect the public’s health,
safety, and welfare. One instance of legal intervention occurs when the profession’s standards of
confidentiality (deemed necessary to ensure effective treatment) call for the suppression of
information that government authorities require to be disclosed to prevent harm to others.
The California Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Tarasoff (1976) legally supported a duty
to warn possible victims of clients once counselors have this information. The Court stated that
when a therapist determines, or pursuant to the standards of his profession should determine, that his
patient presents a serious danger of violence to another, he incurs an obligation to use reasonable care
to protect the intended victim against such danger. The discharge of this duty may require the therapist
to take one or more steps, depending on the nature of the case. Thus, it may call for him or her to warn
the intended victim or others likely to apprise the victim of the danger, to notify the police, or to take
whatever other steps are reasonably necessary under the circumstances. (p. 340)
ETHICS AND DIVERSITY Ethical concerns in providing human services in a diverse society occur
on two levels. One is at the individual level. The unintentional bias of a human service professional
may encompass hidden beliefs and attitudes that can be a harmful influence on the helping
relationship. Sometimes human service professionals may even consciously endorse prejudiced
beliefs and attitudes. Behaving in such a way is unethical.
On a more general level, the basic tenets or underlying principles of some codes of ethics may
not always apply to all cultures. For example, the united States is recognized as an individualist
culture where the focus is on the individual or the self. Think of the words in English that begin
with self: self-actualization, self-disclosure, self-concept, self-acceptance, self-esteem, selfcontrol, and so forth. Other cultures are collectivist in nature, emphasizing the importance of the
family, the extended family, or even a larger group. These associations take precedence over the
individual. In practical terms, one illustration of this difference is the health and well-being of the
individual versus the health and well-being of the group. In the past, failure to take culture into
account and to acknowledge individual differences within cultures has contributed to the
ineffectiveness of human service delivery with diverse groups.
Today, codes of ethics emphasize cultural competence that encompasses three broad
dimensions: awareness, understanding, and skill (Sue & Sue, 2012). Later in this chapter you will
read the Ethical Standards of Human Service Professionals. The preamble of this document
recognizes “an appreciation of human beings in all their diversity.” Specific standards address the
“respect, acceptance, and dignity” due each client (#2), the need to be advocates (for the rights of
all members of society, particularly those who are members of minorities and groups at which
discriminatory practices have historically been directed) (#16), and the provision of services
“without discrimination or preference based on age, ethnicity, culture, race, disability, gender,
religion, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status” (#17). Human service professionals are also
“knowledgeable about the cultures and communities within which they practice” (#18), and they
are “aware of their own cultural backgrounds, beliefs, and values” (#19). Other professional
helping associations and organizations have indicated that helpers who work with other cultures
without culture-specific awareness about those cultures are behaving in an unethical manner
But ethics in a multicultural society are more complex. For example, self-disclosure,
encouraged in European-American culture and often considered necessary for understanding by
the helper, is taboo in other cultures. Asian Americans, American Indians, and Hispanic Americans
do not value self-disclosure and believe that it reflects negatively not only on the individual but
also on the family. Also prized in Western culture are eye contact and directness. Other nonWestern cultures perceive these actions as signs of rudeness that should be avoided. A final
example is the express prohibition of dual relationships in the ethical standards of many helping
organizations, as for example statements 6 and 7 in the Ethical Standards of Human Service
Professionals found later in this chapter. In some cultures like India, for instance, it is likely that
dual relationships may be more normal and acceptable (Nagpal, 2001). For example, meetings
with clients at their homes rather than an office may be expected. Clients may also be people who
are known to the helper through relatives or friends, and it is these very associations that make it
acceptable for the client to seek help from the helping professional.
How do human service professionals provide human services ethically in a diverse culture?
Here are several guidelines (Corey, Corey, & Callanan, 2010; Sue & Sue, 2012; Welfel, 2012):
• Develop an attitude of openness, respect, and appreciation toward other cultural views; expand your
comfort zone with cultural differences.
• Acquire knowledge of specific cultures other than your own.
TABLE 9.1 SUMMARY POINTS: CODES OF ETHICS
• Reflect professional concerns
• Define guiding principles of professional activities
• Clarify responsibilities to clients, the agency, and society
• Do not address every situation
• Are binding only on members of the group that adopts it
• Learn to modify interventions so that they are appropriate and effective with other cultures.
• Develop a tolerance for ambiguity and divergent philosophies, worldviews, and problem-solving
behaviors that may be different from your own.
ETHICS AND TECHNOLOGY The rapidly changing world of technology and its impact on human
service delivery have created a number of concerns for both professionals and constituents. These
concerns include access to personal information, online instruction, the electronic transmission of
records, internet use, Web counseling, and teleconferencing. Faxes, answering machines, voice
mail, and e-mail also raise issues regarding privacy, confidentiality, and security. These concerns
have prompted professional associations to respond through revisions of ethical codes, statements,
or guidelines, such as the following:
• American Counseling Association: Ethical Standards for Internet On-Line Counseling
• ACES Guidelines for Online Instruction in Counselor Education
• National Board for Certified Counselors: The Practice of Internet Counseling
• APA Statement on Services by Telephone, Teleconferencing, and Internet
• NCDA Guidelines for the Use of the Internet for Provision of Career Information and Planning
As indicated by these professional organizational responses, using technology in the human
service arena means focusing on several concerns such as a lack of confidentiality, limited training,
and at times, unequal access to technology and its accompanying resources. As mentioned
in Chapter 3, privacy is not guaranteed when individuals and organizations use listservs, e-mail,
and the Web. This means that client information, related treatment documents, agency records,
and correspondence may become more public than is warranted in service delivery. At best, the
professional must make every effort to secure information and communication between
professionals and those being helped. Clients should be warned of the potential for violation of
privacy. They should also be informed of the steps that they can take to increase the likelihood of
privacy from their end of the electronic communication.
Human service professionals are encouraged to help within their own scope of expertise. If
helpers are to use technology to implement treatment strategies, gather data, record data, or make
assessments, then they will need training to use technology in service delivery. Technology
continues to change so rapidly that training needs to be ongoing. As helpers integrate computers
into their work, they need to be encouraged to try new approaches and new ideas.
Because helpers are ethically obligated to provide quality services or use best practice, they
need to study the effectiveness of the use of these new technologies. Also, helpers need to be
sensitive to their clients’ comfort with technology and client access to the internet. For some clients,
access is not possible, or at best, difficult. Maintaining this sensitivity will help human service
professionals use technology to actually support clients and not to create additional barriers for
COMPETENCE AND RESPONSIBILITY
Before any involvement with clients, helpers must concern themselves with two areas: their
competence as professionals and their responsibility to the individuals, groups, or organizations
with whom they are affiliated, or with whom they serve as clients. Ethical concerns of competence
and responsibility pervade all areas of professional practice.
Competence is a difficult concept to define fr …
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