The field of human services has become an essential part of the modern society. Today, this field is broadly defined. However, the main objective of organizations and professionals in this sector is to meet society’s needs through an interdisciplinary knowledge base. In addition, it focuses on deterrence and remediation of social issues while maintaining a dedication to enhance the quality of human life. In this regard, a human service professional is an individual that holds a paraprofessional or professional job with the purpose of assisting the members of the society to live as effectively as possible in the key domains of life (NOHS, 2018). These domains of practice include social policy, group work, community work, working with families and partnerships, and working with individuals. On the other hand, the fields of practice in human services includes health, the disability fields, mental health, working with the elderly, child protection and juvenile justice, youth work, employment services and income security, substance abuse, and environmental and disaster work (NOHS, 2018). Therefore, this paper will discuss the role of human service professionals in the domain of social policy and the field of practice of child protection and juvenile justice. It will also highlight the potential ethical dilemmas that a professional may encounter while working with culturally diverse clients. In addition, it will apply some of the professional code of ethics in practice. One major organization in the country that offers this human service in Australia the Department for Child Protection Services. In this regard, the paper discusses the role of a child protection service professional working at the Department for Child Protection Services in Australia with some focus on the domain of social policy.
Just like the name suggests, social policy refers to the various areas of policy that deal with the welfare state of the members of society. It pertains to the principles, guidelines and legislations that have an effect on the wellness of society and quality of human life. According to the London School of Economics (2015) social policy is a discipline that deals with the analysis of people’s response to social needs as regards to healthcare, human services, education and safety. In this regard, the government through the Department of Child Protection Services steps into the shoe of effecting policies on ensuring and protecting the welfare of children within the Australian society. In turn, this helps in enhancing and improving the quality of life of children who lack proper care of parents and guardians (McCann and Gray, 1986). According to the domain of social policy, the government has the critical duty of keeping all children in Australia safe (Kouzes and Mico, 1979). As a result, it takes an active role in ensuring that this duty is undertaken by creating a welfare system that ensure and guarantee that children all over the country have a safe, a social and emotional support system, permanent family connection for healthy development.
Overall, social work and human service departments and professional have a central role within the local community to support, promote, and safeguard the welfare of children that need their help within their area (Victoria State Government, 2018). Most importantly, meeting the needs of children and ensuring their safety in the society is a collective responsibility. As such, the family, the society, the government, and all adults have the responsibility of caring for children (Victoria State Government, 2018). Therefore, if an adult charged with the duty of caring for a child fails to meet this responsibility, neglect them, are abusive or take advantage of their positions of power, then the child protection system should take over. The Australian has set up a functioning child protection system that will offer protection to children who are feared to be in danger of both physical and emotional abuse from their parents, guardians, or foster families (Victoria State Government, 2018).
It is imperative to note that social workers play an important role in the safety of children across Australia. Today, those who specialize in child protective services are greatly valued and sought for and are on high demand. Mainly, this is because child protective officers play a vital .role in reducing the frequency of maltreatment, neglect, or abuse of children in Australia (The Role of Social, n.d.). Thus, the primary role of these human service professionals is to help ensure that suitable care arrangements are instigated to ensure the safety and wellness of children in the country (Role and Remit, n.d.).
In addition, a child protection officer plays the role of receiving and acting upon any reported concerns about the neglect, maltreatment or abuse of a child in their area of jurisdiction and acting upon such news by taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety of the child (Queensland Government, 2018). It is worth noting children seldom contact the police or social workers directly about abuse. Such reports are mainly made through referrals from neighbors, teachers, relatives and friends (Brody, 2010). Therefore, professionals are required to educate the members of the public that they have a duty to inform and pass information about abuse to agencies with statutory authority.
What is more, children protection officers are charged with the responsibility of providing directly or facilitating access to range of services to help vulnerable children and families. In addition, they help to enhance the competence and confidence of parents in offering the best possible environment for their children (Lamparski, 2016). Furthermore, these professionals have the duty to improve the day-to-day experiences of children by making recommendations to parents, guardians and foster care homes on how to care for the children. Most importantly, they help children who have undergone through rough experiences such as abuse and neglect to recover from the effects of the awful experiences (The Role of Social, n.d.).
In their line of work, social workers interact with people from all backgrounds. Therefore, the professional must have some degree of cultural awareness to enable them communicate and interact well with clients who are culturally diverse. Specifically, they must possess cultural competence in terms of knowledge, values, and skills. In this respect, the children protection officer should understand culture of the client and its purpose in human the society. As such, the professional must possess a rich knowledge base of their client’s culture in order to exercise competence in the delivery of services that are sensitive to the client’s cultures and harmonize the differences that may exist. In doing so, he or she would be able to recognize the strengths that exist in their culture and therefore be able to interact with them without creating conflict.
Another important value that the child protection should have is self-awareness and cultural humility. Specifically, the individual should be self aware of factors such as stereotypes, judgment, prejudices and bias that may arise when interacting with individuals from a different culturally. This was, he or she will be able to move past and beyond biases in judgment while making assessments and evaluations about a suspected violation of the rights of children. In turn, this value would go a long way in preventing all possible kinds of problems and conflicts that may arise from misunderstanding and disparities in the values and opinions of the social protection officer.
The other important skill an individual in the child protection service should possess is cultural humility. Notably, this value is at the heart of being tolerant to the cultural disparities that may exist between one’s culture and that of the client. Mainly, it pertains to being collaborative and other-oriented in order to understand why the client does the things they do. Having cultural humility therefore will go a long way in creating positive relationships between the social agent, the client and the community as a whole (National Association of Social Workers, 2017). This way, they would be able to make the correct assessment and make the right decision as regards to the child safety and protection.
While performing their roles and duties, child protection officers come across various ethical dilemmas. Mainly, this arises from the fact that the profession is characterized by the task of seeking a balance between the need to protect the child and the desire to help the parents. Therefore, in the event that the child has to be taken away from their parents or guardians in order to ensure that they are safe and protected, the parents’ needs to stay with their children may have to be neglected (Roper, 2015). In such a case, the social worker is faced with the ethical dilemma of either separating the child from their parents in order to be safe, or leave the parent with the child and run the risk of suffering further neglect, abuse or mistreatment (Barsky, 2011). Notably, such situations often do not have an obvious answer as to what is the ‘right way’ to act (Bertotti, 2010). Therefore, the professional is forced to make a decision based on what he or she thinks is the best for the child at the moment.
The professional code of ethics in this kind of social service clearly outlines a set of core values and principles that a child protection officer should possess. These professional standards should be strictly adhered to in relationships between the professionals and the clients. By and large, they include integrity, propriety, competence, non-discrimination, among others. Firstly, the code requires that professionals in the field carry out their duties with integrity, and treat those who they interact with in a respectful, dignified, honest and fairness (Illinois Institute of Technology, 2011). Additionally, they are required to maintain high standards of personal and moral conduct when interacting with the clients. The code also requires that child protection officers should provide services that are within the confines of their competence as regards to education, authorizations and professional experience.
All in all, all factors taken into consideration, child protection officers play an important role in today’s society. Their primary function is to ensure and safeguard the safety of children across Australia. The profession is guided by a series of professional codes of conduct among them integrity, competence, propriety, among others. Despite the clear set of values highlighted in the codes of conduct, these professionals encounter ethical dilemmas. Therefore, they are required to use their skill set, knowledge base and values to discern what is right or wrong when faced with an ethical dilemma.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2018). Child protection. Retrieved 21 May 2018, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-statistics/health-welfare-services/child-protection/overview
Barsky, A. (2011). To Report or Not To Report: That Is the Ethical Dilemma. The New Social Worker. Retrieved 21 May 2018, https://www.socialworker.com/feature-articles/ethics-articles/To_Report_or_Not_To_Report%3A_That_Is_the_Ethical_Dilemma/
Bertotti, T. (2010 Decision-Making and Ethical Dilemmas of Child and Family Social Workers. Social Work and Society, 8(1), 357
Brody, S. (2010). What is the role of social workers?. Community Care. Retrieved 21 May 2018, https://www.communitycare.co.uk/2010/09/20/what-is-the-role-of-social-workers/
Child Welfare. Center for the study if social policy. Retrieved 21 May 2018, https://www.cssp.org/reform/child-welfare
Illinois Institute of Technology. (2011). Code of Ethics for Child Welfare Professionals (1996). Retrieved 21 May 2018, https://ethics.iit.edu/ecodes/node/3921
Kouzes, M. J., and Mico, P. R. (1979). Domain Theory: An Introduction to Oganizational Behavior in Human Service Organizations. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 51(4), 450-465.
Lamparski, J. (2016). The role of a Child Protection Officer at your school.School Governance. Retrieved 21 May 2018, https://www.schoolgovernance.net.au/2016/05/26/the-role-of-a-child-protection-officer-at-your-school/
McCann, J. E. and Gray, B. (1986). Power and Collaboration in Human Service Domains. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 6(3), 59-66.
National Association of Social Workers. (2011). Read the Code of Ethics. Retrieved 21 May 2018, https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English
National Organization for Human Services (NOHS). (2018). What is Human Services? Retrieved 21 May 2018, https://www.nationalhumanservices.org/what-is-human-services
Queensland Government. (2018). Roles and responsibilities. Retrieved 21 May 2018, https://www.communities.qld.gov.au/childsafety/protecting-children/about-child-protection/roles-responsibilities
Role of Child Protection Officer. (n.d.). Living Sport. Retrieved 21 May 2018, https://www.livingsport.co.uk/safe-sport/advice-and-guidance/role-of-child-protection-officer/
Roper, E. J. (2015). Ethical dilemmas in child protection for pediatricians. Journal of pediatrics and child health, 51(4), 357.
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