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Fitness for the Profession of Human Services

The Department of Sociology and Human Services, following best practices set forth by CSHSE, believe that a number of attributes, characteristics and behaviors are important for the success in the field of Human Services. Therefore, the Department has adapted a Fitness for the Profession policy utilized by other universities (including the University of Scranton and the University of Alaska-Anchorage) in order to provide best practice guidelines for HDSA students.

Professional and Personal Development

The human services degree at the University of North Georgia strives to educate human services professionals who are prepared for community, state, and global service through the development of professional competencies. Entry into the profession of Human Services is more than initiating a new career path or beginning a new job. It is similar to starting a lifelong journey. As in many other professional fields, there is an intensive and rigorous training program to complete, which has academic and field placement requirements attached. However, because Human Services is a helping profession that deals with human living and a way of living in its own right, there are particular professional and personal challenges that students will encounter that are unique to the field. The challenges extend beyond the classroom and traditional academic standards and therefore require a different kind of development and assessment.

Meeting these challenges and learning to grow from them is an integral part of succeeding in the Human Services profession and demonstrating fitness for the profession of human services. As educators, the faculty and staff of the Department of Sociology and Human Services are committed to facilitating the professional development and personal growth of students, and to the education, supervision and mentoring of students in all aspects of their professional Human Services journey.

Growth as a human service professional demands evaluation of one’s values, beliefs, attitudes and behavior patterns as defined in the Ethical Standards for Human Services Professionals. The 44 standards outlined in the code of ethics covers the human service professional’s responsibility to clients, colleagues, the profession, the public and society, employers, and self.  Adherence to these standards is imperative for success in the field. These standards must also be considered in relation to the national standards for human services education. This policy is tied to both sets of standards.

Students in the Human Services Delivery and Administration (HSDA) program will be evaluated every semester with reference to these professional and personal attributes as well as to their academic performance as it relates to their growing professional skills. The list below is not exhaustive but is meant to provide a firm, but broad, basis for discussion between students and faculty. Descriptions are given to help students in evaluating their own strengths and weaknesses in each domain.

An Important Note

This document is provided to help students understand what is expected of them and stimulate self-assessment for continued growth.  Ongoing professional and personal growth is important in the Human Service field.  It is in this sense, then, that the faculty and staff of the Department of Sociology and Human Services commit themselves to fostering the development of our students as well as of one another. It is our hope to become, in essence, a learning community of fellow professionals – faculty, staff and students.

For all of us, it is to be expected that growth will build upon our uniqueness as individuals while moving us toward professional excellence. With this in mind, the following attributes are provided to aid in our ongoing development.

Commitment to Wellness

Wellness is a way of life oriented toward optimal health and well-being in which body, mind and spirit are integrated by the individual to live life more fully. It is particularly important as it impacts Human Services professionals. “Commitment to Wellness” includes:

An understanding of, and decision to pursue, wellness as a lifestyle over the lifespan. Willingness to assess issues of wellness in one’s lifestyle and life- environments; an ongoing choice to become the best one can be mentally, emotionally, physically, socially, and vocationally.

Commitment to Learning

Demonstrated ability to self-assess, self- correct, and self-direct; to identify needs and sources of learning; to continually seek new knowledge and understanding.

Demonstrated life- management skills: For example, ability to prioritize and manage a variety of commitments, time and stress; critical thinking skills; problem-solving and ethical decision-making skills.

Commitment to excellence as a human services professional as demonstrated through adherence to the Ethical Code of Standards for Human Services Professionals.

Core Academic and Professional Competencies

The human services profession, through its accrediting and certifying agencies (e.g. CSHSE and HS-BCP) has identified the knowledge-base that is essential for success in professional human services. These core areas include: Human Growth and Development, Social and Cultural Foundations, Helping Relationships, Group Work, Career and Lifestyle Development, Appraisal, Research and Program Evaluation, and Professional Orientation. Acceptable performance in these academic areas is essential.

In addition, competency and an acceptable level of functioning in field placement and internships are required and expected, as well as the ability to form effective collegial working relationships with peers and supervisors.

It should be noted that, in a number of academic courses involving these core academic and field-specific areas, students will be challenged to review their own values, attitudes, experiences, beliefs, behaviors and biases. Willingness to engage in this self-review, its challenges and potential growth, is a critical element in growing as a professional human services provider.

Ability to see oneself as connected to a wider whole of regional/global needs, helping systems, and resources.  A commitment to advocacy on behalf of clients and larger society, as well as to the pursuit of social justice, as consistent with one’s professional human services identity.

Professional Identity

Commitment to ongoing development as a professional Human Services provider and member of the “helping professions.”

Commitment to high standards of practice as a Human Services professional.

An understanding of one’s motivation for choosing the Human Services profession. The ability to critically assess one’s own values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors as they relate to the standards of excellence and ethics, and the best practices, of the Human Services profession.

The ability to exhibit appropriate professional attitudes and conduct; ability to represent the profession ethically and effectively. Willingness to assume roles of service and advocacy.

Personal Maturity

Ability to live and function at an appropriate level of emotional, psychological, and relational well-being; freedom from significant impairments that would affect one’s ability to perform as a professional human services provider. The ability to tolerate ambiguity and to patiently address areas of growth. Ability to balance personal and professional self-awareness.

Responsibility

Demonstrated ability to fulfill professional commitments and to be accountable for actions and outcomes. Demonstration of effective work habits and attitudes (e.g. reliability), evident in field placement assignments, and other areas of student performance.

Demonstrated ability to act and respond in a variety of situations with honesty and integrity.  Knowledgeable about professional ethical standards (NOHS) and competence in applying those standards to concrete situations.

Interpersonal Skills

Demonstrated ability to interact effectively with clients, colleagues, other helping professionals, and the community and to deal effectively with multiple diversities in a pluralistic society.

Effectiveness in establishing positive interpersonal relationships on an individual and group basis; openness to constructive criticism; tolerance and openness toward differences; ability to develop appropriate support systems.

The ability to identify sources of and seek out appropriate feedback from faculty and peers, and to utilize and provide feedback for improving personal and professional interactions.

Ability to be appropriately assertive and self-advocating.

Communication Skills

Demonstrated ability to communicate effectively (i.e. speaking, body language, reading, writing, listening) for varied audiences and purposes. Sensitive to diversity in one’s communications.

Problem-solving

In both professional performance and personal development, the ability to recognize and define problems, analyze data from varied sources, develop and implement solutions, and evaluate outcomes.  The ability to seek out resources for help, support, and insight.

Stress Management

The ability to identify sources of stress that (potentially) affect personal and professional functioning, and to develop effective coping behaviors. Existence of appropriate boundaries between personal stressors and professional performance.
Development of appropriate supports, resources and help when needed.

Student Retention Policy and Procedures

Acceptance into a Human Services program does not assure graduation from it. Successful completion of the Bachelor’s degree in the Department of Sociology and Human Services is based upon the continuous evaluation of students to insure (a) effective demonstration of professional competence, (b) each student’s commitment to the program and the profession, and (c) his or her continued growth in personal or emotional characteristics and qualities related to successful performance in a helping profession (see above). The evaluation process serves two primary functions:

  1. To provide students with direct feedback relative to their progress that will enable them to enhance their strengths and identify and remediate weaknesses in their professional and personal development.
  2. To provide faculty with information about student progress to facilitate decisions in the best interest of students and the profession.

A student must maintain a HSDA GPA of 2.5 or higher in order to complete service-learning courses.  If a student’s GPA drops below 2.5, they will be removed from service-learning courses and will not be allowed to complete their service learning until their HSDA GPA returns to a 2.5. 

Furthermore, a student must have a cumulative UNG GPA of at least a 2.0 at the end of his or her prescribed curriculum to receive the Bachelor’s degree.

Students are expected to adhere to the professional code of ethics of the National Organization of Human Services.  Copies of these codes are available at the National Organization for Human Services' website. Students are also expected to adhere to the Student Code of Conduct policy of the University of North Georgia. 

Behavioral issues that also violate professional standards will be reported to the Student Conduct Administrator. Issues related to (i) fitness for the profession of Human Services and (ii) the personal and professional attributes outlined above and (iii) the code of ethics of the National Organization of Human Services (collectively, “Fitness Issues”) will be handled through the Student Review Process described below.

Student Review Process

At the end of every semester the HSDA Retention Committee will evaluate students’ professional and personal progress; however, any faculty member may raise questions about Fitness Issues with a particular student’s performance at any point during the student’s program. Students who have demonstrated satisfactory progress in their professional and personal progress are given feedback. Students who have not demonstrated satisfactory progress are notified to make a mandatory appointment with their faculty advisor or field placement coordinator.

Step 1

Students receive feedback in an advising meeting with their advisor or field placement coordinator. In consultation with the advisor/coordinator, the student will write a plan that addresses weaknesses in that student’s development. Assuming that this plan is adhered to, the student’s performance improves to a satisfactory level.

Step 2

Students may be unwilling and/or unable to follow through with Process 1; there is either lack of sufficient progress in, or resistance to, Process 1. In this case the Department will recommend to

the Sociology and Human Services Department Head that the student be placed on probation with the HSDA program and a more formal remediation plan be developed between the advisor/coordinator and student, and ratified by the Department’s Retention Committee.  This committee is composed of (1) the student’s advisor/coordinator, (2) the Department Head, and (3) two other full-time faculty member appointed by the Department Head on an ad hoc basis.

A remediation plan may include but not be limited to the following:

  1. Identification of the problem areas.
  2. Expected behavioral and/or attitudinal changes.
  3. Potential methods for achieving and demonstrating change.
  4. Timeline for completion.

Each student involved in this process has the option of bringing an advocate (neither a family member nor a lawyer) to meetings with the Retention Committee.

A copy of the plan will be given to the student, and one will be retained by the advisor, retention committee, and the Department Head. Satisfactory completion of the plan and consistent demonstration of appropriate conduct should be assessed by the committee on an agreed timeline, and will result in a decision to recommend removal from probation to the Department Head.

Process 3

If Steps 1 & 2 fail, the entire faculty may (1) recommend voluntary termination/resignation to the student and/or (2) recommend dismissal to the College of Arts and Letters Dean. If dismissal from the program is recommended, the Department Head will forward that recommendation to the Dean for disposition. 

This review process insures that each student is given feedback about professional and personal development throughout the program as they attain knowledge and skill in required and elective courses and Human Services experience.

Alternative Process to Address Immediate Fitness for the Profession

In rare cases the faculty may become aware of issues or behavior that raise doubts about a student's ability to either (a) successfully complete the program, or (b) move forward as a practicing professional Human Service provider. When such information becomes available, the faculty has a duty to review the information fully and carefully, to notify the student of concerns and the outcome of the review, and to select a course of action that is commensurate with accepted ethical and legal procedures as well as the best practices of the profession.

In certain instances the faculty, in consultation with the Department Head, Faculty Advisor/Coordinator and Dean(s), may find it necessary to forego the step-by-step procedures listed above and move directly to recommend probation and remediation or dismissal from field placement or the HSDA program.

*Adapted from the University of Scranton Drawn 11/2014. A Policy Statement from the Faculty and Staff of the Department of Counseling and Human Services, College of Professional Studies, University of Scranton.

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