Christian Ethics Framework
In Human Services
Sherri L. Gonyea
Empire State College
December 3, 2013
The Christian values and ethics of a human service professional which “are reflected in the Bible, originate from the transfer of knowledge about God and humankind through biblical understanding” (Hollinger, p. 10). They also derive from previously published ethics of various human service professions (e.g., Human Services, Social Work, and Christian Counseling). This is an ethical framework that strives to combine the core of Christianity and human services together to enrich the power of care and service to the client by providing the highest quality service available to them with respect to their own culture, diversity, religion, and needs.
The primary mission of the human service professional is to adhere to the core values of Christianity and human services to promote high quality service and care, along with promoting the well-being, best interest, and diversity of the client. The client is defined as an individual, family, group, organization, or community. Human service professionals provide aid to clients in the community and in their own environment in order to fully serve clients’ diverse needs and broad area of care. The human service profession and all connecting service professions (e.g., Christian profession, educators, students) “uphold the integrity and ethics of the profession, partake in constructive criticism of the profession, promote client and community well-being, and enhance their own professional growth” (NOHSE, 1996).
The mission of the human service profession is based on a set of core values that provides a diverse, unique, and respected perspective for the professional and profession. This is a list of the primary core values:
- Social justice
Core values, and the principles that flow from them, must be balanced within the context and complexity of the human experience (NASW, 2008). These core values also allow the professional to keep God as a central figure in all aspects of the profession by allowing them to stay faithful to their Christian values.
The following list of ethical principles reflect on human service professional’s core values of service, integrity, respect, love, competence and social justice. These principles set the foundation for primary morals human service professionals should desire.
Ethical Principle: Human Service professionals’ primary goal is to serve others, especially those in need, those unable to speak for themselves, and address the social problems of the client.
Human service professionals are “to be servant minded and servant leaders in the same way Christ came to serve humankind” (Hollinger, p. 8). Human service professionals serve with only the client’s best interest at heart, Human service professionals utilize all their personal, business, and community resources to help the vulnerable and oppressed and solve social issues. Human service professionals are expected to provide some volunteer services utilizing some of their professional skills.
Ethical Principle: Human service professionals are to be trustworthy and honest.
“Human service professionals are continually aware of the missions, values, ethical principles, and ethical standards and practices in a manner consistent with them” (NASW, 2008). Human service professionals stand firm on their Christian teachings which uphold the values of truth, honesty, and responsibility. Human service professionals will also support the ethical practices of each organization to which they are associated with.
Ethical principle: Human service professionals respect a person’s worth, background, origin, and cultural and ethnic diversity.
Human service professionals will reach out to each client with care, compassion, empathy, and genuine Christian love while keeping in mind any differences to cultural and ethnic diversity with the greatest amount of respect. Human service professionals support clients’ self-determination, encouragement towards self-advocacy, and excitement towards ability to change, learn, grow, and address their own needs. Human service professionals recognize their responsibility towards resolving conflicts between the interests of clients and broader society in a respectable and responsible manner consistent with the values, ethical principles, and ethical standards of their profession.
Ethical Principle: Human service professionals will love others in the same way that God loves us.
Human service professionals will not judge clients for they have not walked in their shoes and God teaches us not to pass judgment but only to share empathy to gain a better understanding so we can serve them at our best. Human service professionals will serve clients with the same love God provides for them with respect to ethical boundaries. Human service professionals will be compassionate towards client’s problems and needs.
Ethical principle: Human service professionals “practice within their area of competence and develop and enhance their professional expertise” (NASW, 2008).
Human service professionals work continuously to improve their knowledge, skills, and area of expertise through classes, research, training, workshops, and conferences in order to apply the highest performance of service and care for the clients in which they serve. Human service professionals also share a desire to contribute resources of their expertise and networks to improve the quality of service for everyone.
Value: Social Justice
Ethical principle: Human service professionals fight against injustices.
Human service professionals fight for the rights of the vulnerable and oppressed individuals and groups of people to promote community change and improvements. Human service professionals focus primarily on areas such as poverty, unemployment, discrimination and other forms of social injustices as root community problems that need prompt attention, and do so with a focus on change towards improvement. Human service professionals will activate all their resources and work side-by-side in a cooperative effort with clients to collaborative access to needed information, services, and resources through shared decision making. Human service workers strive to “support sensitivity to and knowledge about oppression and cultural and ethnic diversity” (NASW, 2008).
Section 1- Standards for Human Service Professionals
The Christian human service professional has multiple functions and roles when working with clients of diverse cultures, backgrounds, and walks of life. Some of these varying roles that they embrace involve being a consultant, a case manager, a teacher, an advocate, evaluator and a confidant.
The Human Service Professional’s Responsibility to Self (Reasons, 2013)
STATEMENT 1: I will do my best to take care of my body through exercise and a healthy eating habit. By doing this I will also be strengthen my emotional health by reducing stress and other harmful external factors.
STATEMENT 2: I will continue to strengthen my spiritual life with daily prayer, meditation, bible study, song and praise.
STATEMENT 3: I will continue to enhance my skills and knowledge through research, workshops, classes, independent study, and conferences.
STATEMENT 4: I will manage my time well by balancing my work, family, personal time, and adhering to a Sabbath day each week for rest and an annual vacation.
STATEMENT 5: I will live my daily life honestly, respectfully, nonjudgmental, giving generously financially for a good cause or to help others, and always seeking to serve others by giving of myself and asking of nothing in return.
STATEMENT 6: I will seek to be Christ-like in attitude and action toward all persons regardless of race, social class, religious beliefs, or position of influence within the community, organization, or government.
The Human Service Professional’s Responsibility to Clients (NOHSE, 1996)
STATEMENT 7: Human service professionals collaborate with clients to work on an agreement for the purpose, goals, and reason for their helping relationship before their relationship begins. Human service professionals also discuss the limitations of their anticipated relationship with the clients.
STATEMENT 8: Human service professionals hold the highest respect for the honor and well-being of the client and treating them with the same treatment that God would provide for all of us.
STATEMENT 9: Human service professionals strongly adhere to the rules of confidentiality on all levels, except; a) When there is threat of harm to self or others; b.) Agency policies specify otherwise; c.) When local, state, or federal laws override confidentiality in a specific case; and d) when given written consent by client to provide information. All aspects of confidentiality are explained to clients in language they understand, by the human service professional upon first encounter, before service is rendered.
STATEMENT 10: In crisis situations where “harm” is present, whether to self or others, the human service professional is to act in a professional and timely manner as trained to protect all parties involved. “This may involve seeking consultation, supervision, and/or breaking the confidentiality of the relationship” (NASW, 2008) to ensure everyone’s safety.
STATEMENT 11: Human service professionals must safeguard client records at all times to protect client’s rights to confidentiality, integrity, and security. With exception to professional supervision, a client’s written consent must be collected prior to sharing client information.
STATEMENT 12: Human service professionals are aware of and fully understand the level of unequal power and status between them and their clients. Human service professionals exert great caution to dual relationships whenever possible to prevent risk of impaired professional judgment, harm to self or client, and/or possible exploitation.
STATEMENT 13: Sexual relationships with clients, past or present, are not permissible at any time due to conflict of morals and ethics, both personal and religious. These types of relationships are explicitly prohibited.
STATEMENT 14: Human service professionals support and encourage client’s rights to self-determination and recognize the client’s freedom and right to receive and refuse services at any time.
STATEMENT 15: Human service professionals support client empowerment and recognition of strengths, values, and culture is expressly and freely given.
STATEMENT 16: Human service professionals recognize the new second commandment and law “love one another” (1 John 2:7, New Living Testament). By doing this, human service professionals will embrace and accept the client’s personal identity as a whole, acknowledge their strengths; help strengthens, and help empower them with skills, knowledge, and other resources to help improve their quality of life.
The Human Service Professional’s Responsibility to the Community and Society
STATEMENT 17: Human service professionals maintain awareness of local, state, and federal laws at all times and will research, and/or seek consultation if at any time there is a need to do so. Human service professionals will fight for change in any unjust policies, laws and regulations that go against the client’s rights for fair and equal treatment and/or opportunities. When faced with a conflict between the “rights of the people” and the laws, human service professionals may opt for social change and fight for justice.
STATEMENT 18: Human service professional keeps up to date on social issues and takes on the role of publicist to keep the client, and community informed of any new information that may affect, benefit, or be of interest to them.
STATEMENT 19: Human service professionals respect and understand all complexities of interactions in life (e.g., community, individual, family) and will face these complexities with patience, prayer, and understanding.
STATEMENT 20: The human service professional is dedicated to serving to and advocating for the client and the community for quality services, maximum resource availability, and increased awareness of their unmet needs in order to gain more support to find ways to meet those needs.
STATEMENT 21: Human service professionals will not misrepresent their profession or their area of expertise with clients, colleagues, the community, or in public in any way. Human service professionals will take great care to accurately and effectively be a spokesperson for their profession, and the effectiveness of the resources available within the agency and their successes.
STATEMENT 22: Human service professionals “must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35, New Living Testament). Human service professionals must always advocate for all people but mostly for the oppressed, disabled, elderly, poor, and all minorities because it is the moral and just thing to do.
STATEMENT 23: Human service professionals must love another as addressed in STATEMENT 16 (above) and therefore will not discriminate or tolerate discrimination in any form or of any person(s).
STATEMENT 24: Human service professionals will respect and accept all cultures due to living in a diverse society and world. Human service professionals will educate themselves and research information regarding any culture they are not familiar with in order to provide the best quality of service and care for all clients.
STATEMENT 25: Human service professionals will not impose their own beliefs, culture, and values on clients but will leave open the option to share them when interest is implied. Human service professionals will not use their beliefs, culture, or values in a manner to intentionally try to change, or force change, on others.
STATEMENT 26: Human service professionals are aware of sociopolitical issues that differentially affect clients from diverse backgrounds (NOHS, 1996, STATEMENT 20).
The Human Service Professional’s Responsibility’s to Colleagues
STATEMENT 27: Human service professionals will utilize their God-given original and unique special way of working with clients. They don’t attempt to copy others but will consult with other professionals if it is necessary for helping the client.
STATEMENT 28: The human service professional will respect other professionals, even when there is a conflict between them. They will remember that each person is a human being and each person is unique and different. If a conflict arises, they will approach it respectfully by discussing it and attempting to work it out with the professional whom the conflict is with first before turning to others in the chain of command (e.g., supervisor, consultants) for assistance.
STATEMENT 29: Human service professionals will approach unethical behavior by following agency policy: a.) respectfully attempting to resolve it with the other professional, b.) report behavior to supervisor if there is no resolve, c.) report to administrative staff of agency or to agency where professional belongs.
STATEMENT 30: Confidentiality is binding and respected between professionals in the same way it is between professional and clients. The professional’s privacy will be respected, as well as any shared information regarding clients and agency.
The Human Service Professional’s Responsibility to Agency or Employer
STATEMENT 31: Human service professionals respect the scope of their knowledge and skills and do not attempt to exceed what they are ethically capable of doing. The clients, agency, and community’s best interest is always put first.
STATEMENT 32: Integrity, respect, and responsibility are high on the list of values for human service professionals which mean that they will keep any commitments they make to their employers.
STATEMENT 33: Human service professionals will work hard to maintain high quality of care and services that the agency provides, and assist in increasing access to resources. The human service professional also regularly participates in agency assessments and evaluations to look for any room for improvement, assist with implementation of improved services/care, and to ensure current services are updated regularly to ensure continued effectiveness.
STATEMENT 34: The human service professional will show the same respect for the employer that is showed for the client and will consult both parties when a conflict arises regarding responsibilities between the two. The human service professional will make every effort to reach a resolution between all parties involved, together.
STATEMENT 35: Human service professionals understand that they also have a direct responsibility to self.
STATEMENT 36: Human service professionals acknowledge and embrace self-learning, self-empowerment, self-advocacy, and understand how all of these work together to help them upgrade their skills, knowledge, and understand how all of these combined give them the ability to upgrade their services, agency services, and community services.
STATEMENT 37: Human service professionals know and agree to the knowledge of continual upgrade in their knowledge and skills through classes, seminars, conferences, workshops, personal or agency training, and research in order to provide the best quality of care and services possible throughout their employment life with the agency.
Section II- Summary of Steps to be taken in Ethical Decision Making
There are no right and wrongs to how a person approaches ethical decision-making. Professionals can disagree with and challenge the ethical decision made for resolving a problem. The important thing is to think things out thoroughly, use a good guide that works for you or your agency, and if in doubt, consult another professional. It is best to follow these steps in the ethical decision making framework (Reamer, 1999, p. 73).
1. Identify the conflict that is at hand (ethical issues, values, duties). The conflict will more than likely be among more than one issue.
2. Identify who will be affected by the ethical decision that is made (individual, group, organization). The decision may affect more than one person.
3. Identify possible ways to resolve the dilemma, who is involved with each path, and possible risks with each direction you could take.
4. Take each possible resolution and with each one take into consideration 1) a relevant code of ethics and legal principle, 2) favorable reasons and opposing reasons for that resolution idea.
5. Don’t make the decision alone. Consult another professional within the agency to assist you. Not all decisions are easy to make and not all decisions get resolved. Sometimes, even after consulting with other professionals (e.g., colleagues, administrators, ethics committees), it can still be controversial.
6. Make your decision and make sure that you document the process that brought you to the decision you made (from beginning to end).
7. Monitor, evaluate, and document the decision outcome. It is important to continue to monitor, evaluate, and document even after making the decision to ensure that the outcome is a positive one and a proper resolution. This allows the professional to be accountable to the client, employer, and funding sources. This is also important in the event something goes wrong and there is an ethics complaint, malpractice suit, or lawsuit filed.
Hollinger, Thomas D. (n.d.), Placing Christ at the Center of Christian Leadership Values. Inner
Resources for Leaders, volume 2, (issue 3). Retrieved from http://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/innerresources/vol2iss3/hollinger.pdf
National Association of Social Workers (2008), Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers. Retrieved from http://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/code/code.asp
National Organization for Human Services (1996), Ethical Standards for Human Service Professionals. Retrieved from http://www.nationalhumanservices.org/ethical-standards-for-hs-professionals
Reamer, F. (1999). Social work values and ethics (3rd ed.). New York: Columbia University Press.
Reasons, James A. (2013), A Minister’s Code of Ethics: A higher level of commitment and Conduct. Retrieved from http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200404/200404_102_code.cfm