This is the first of a series of articles focusing on ethics in child and youth care worker training and development. Information will be incorporated into the articles from the National Staff Development and Training Association Code of Ethics for Training and Development Professionals in Human Services: Case Scenarios and Training Implications. The complete document can be retrieved from the NSDTA website www.nsdta.aphsa.org
In the past 20 years, there has been dramatic transformation and growth in training and development in human service areas such as child and youth care. Within the United States, for example, significant legislative changes have occurred (e.g., Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, Multiethnic Placement Act of 1997, Foster Care Independence Act of 1999) that have directly or indirectly affected child and youth care practice. We have also experienced an increase in the diversity of families, the advent of managed care, and increasingly complex social problems (e.g., poverty, child abuse, domestic violence, homelessness, substance abuse) coinciding with continued funding challenges. As a result, the child and youth care worker training and development professional has become an increasingly important presence helping practitioners deal with these complex challenges.
In addition to these challenges to the direct care practitioner, changes within the area of training and development such as the availability of IV-E training dollars in the public sector (within the United States), newly developed training technology, the increased role of the private sector training consultant and expanded training approaches and training populations (e.g., the training of workers of different disciplines from both public and private contract agencies) have created the need to deal with ethical issues resulting from new practices or conflicting values and responsibilities. This expanded role requires that training and development professionals be able to integrate ethical principles into all training and development activities as well as conceptualize and articulate strategies for helping practitioners deal with ethical problems and dilemmas.
In 2003, recognizing this expanded role of the training and development professional the National Staff Development and Training Association (NSDTA) of the American Public Human Services Association adopted a Code of Ethics for Training and Development Professionals in Human Services. A variety of human service Codes of Ethics were reviewed (including the Code of Ethics: Standards for Practice of North American Child and Youth Care Professionals) and incorporated into the Code for Human Services Training and Development Professionals. The NSDTA Code is intended to be applicable to child and youth care worker training and development professionals as well as other human services professionals.
This series of articles will look at the values, principles and standards of the NSDTA Code, along with examples of compliance and non-compliance to each value, principle or standard. The examples are intended to promote understanding of the values, principles, and standards. However, they are not intended to be absolute. This first article will focus on the first two Core Values and Principles of a Human Services Training and Development (HSTD) professional.
1. Beneficence and Non-malfeasance
Above all else, training and development professionals should promote the well-being of others and avoid activities/interventions/relationships that may bring others harm. Since certain aspects of human services may involve risk of harm or discomfort to practitioners (e.g., working with violent clients), simulated training and development activities may also present a risk to training and development participants. The potential risk of harm or discomfort to a participant must be considered relative to the potential learning and development opportunity. Every effort should be made to ensure the physical and emotional safety and security of all participants.
Compliance Example “A youth worker trainer informed potential training participants prior to the training of the potential risks involved in participating in physical crisis management training (e.g., the possibility of clothes being torn and muscle strain). Prior to the training, the trainer planned for the prevention of physical and emotional injury to the learner. This prevention preparation included planning of the physical environment (e.g., providing sufficient space and mats for "take-downs"). The trainer also limited the number of participants to ensure that the participants could safely demonstrate and practice newly learned skills under the trainer’s guidance. When planning for the training, the trainer met with program activity personnel and reviewed the training plan, jointly assessing the importance of the learning objectives relative to the risk to the learner. Concern was expressed regarding potential risk of physical injury for some of the staff who were "out of shape." Alternative learning activities along with a longer period of time for "successful completion of training" were considered for those who may not have been able to perform certain activities. Additional trainer assistants were also hired for "demonstration periods" to assure safe and successful learning of crucial crisis management skills.
Noncompliance Example “A training video-tape was mailed to each foster parent prior to receiving a child who experienced sexual abuse to help them better understand the special needs of the child. The video contained detailed accounts of sexual abuse by the survivors. The video had previously been used in the training of child protective services social workers and typically resulted in at least one participant crying and leaving the room. Due to the geographical distance from the training site of many of the foster parents and other logistical concerns, training personnel decided that the use of the mailed video was a cost effective way to provide "training." The training personnel did not know if any of the foster parents had experienced sexual abuse themselves. No additional support for the foster parents before, during, or after the viewing of the video was provided.
2. Learning, Development, Self-Awareness, and Self-Actualization
Training and development professionals are committed to promoting the development of human services practitioners by facilitating knowledge acquisition, skill demonstration and practice; exploring values and attitudes; increasing self awareness and metacognitive abilities; utilizing strategies to promote transfer of learning; and advocating for the development of learning organizations/communities. Training and development professionals also value the importance of ensuring their own learning, development, self-awareness, and self actualization.
Compliance Example “During orientation training, a trainer at a mental health agency encourages new employees to think about how to get the most from their learning experiences (formal and informal). The trainer administers a learning style inventory to help participants become aware of their perceived learning styles. The trainer also provides suggestions to enhance learning during training and application of learning on the job.
Noncompliance Example “Concerned that a group of economic assistance workers were reluctant to demonstrate and practice needed assessment interviewing skills in the training, a trainer decided to show an "entertaining" video that illustrated poor interviewing techniques (e.g., what not to do) in a counseling setting instead of rehearsing the interviewing skills. Although the participants did not have the opportunity to demonstrate and practice the appropriate interviewing skills, they rated the trainer very highly on the training evaluation form.
Although the above examples included other (non-child and youth care worker) human service professionals, the examples also apply to child and youth care worker training. Both core values are also consistent with the Code of Ethics: Standards for Practice of North American Child and Youth Care Workers.
Next month: Core values emphasizing the importance of cultural competence and leadership responsibilities of the child and youth care worker training and development professional.
Dale Curry, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor, Human Development and Family Studies, Kent State University School of Family and Consumer Studies. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org