Human services aim to make a difference in people’s lives. They meet human needs through an interdisciplinary knowledge base, prevention measures and finding remedial solutions to improve the quality of the service population (http://www.nohse.com/hsworker.html). Human service worker works in diverse settings of society and they assist individual and communities to function effectively in major aspects of live (http://www.nohse.com/hsworker.html). They require wide range of skills such as interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, ability to manage and self awareness (http://www.nohse.com/hsworker.html). Other important personal traits include strong desire ness to help, strong sense of responsibility, patience, understanding and caring (http://www.nohse.com/hsworker.html).
This paper attempts to explore how human service worker prepares his or herself to function effectively to fulfil his or her role. It begins with self awareness, culture specific awareness and understanding the issues on access and equity. Self-awareness is the first step of the preparation for a human service worker to engage in positive and productive relationships with culturally diverse individual groups (Locke, 1992). Human service workers occupy a position of power and influence and they are capable of steering the clients to their set of values because often they will not be aware of their own behaviours, attitudes, habits and customs influencing their perception (Locke, 1992). Our thoughts are cognitive elements, our feelings are the emotional aspects, and our actions are the actual behaviour or what we do.
For example if one becomes aware of a personal behaviour that one does not like or does not understand, one can track back through the related thoughts and feelings, to the underlying beliefs, values and ethics and this would enhance one’s self-awareness (Locke. 1992). Therefore, belief system appears to be the foundation of everything a person does, so it is important to understand and know how it affects or influences their perception, how it helps to relate to others and to distinguish between own-self from others . More than book learning, they require personal growth in relationship to three key elements – knowledge, skills and performance ( Kiffiak, 1994).There should be a balance between all the three elements because knowledge provides the base for understanding, describing, explaining and justifying the actions in the situation and the ability to use the knowledge readily and effectively would be skill ( Kiffiak, 1994).Although it might be difficult to feel or experience or understand the other person’s position, becoming culturally self-aware would place him or her in a better position to understand , appreciate and support people in crisis (Lynch, 1992).
Culturally self awareness means not only becoming culturally fluent in other cultures but having a solid understanding of our own culture (Lynch,1992). Culture is something we learn and it impacts everyone and influences how we act and respond. As, Human service worker becoming aware of own culture means to understand who we are and our cultural dynamic, so we have to understand, acknowledge and value our cultural and social background regarding ‘race’, ‘ethnicity’, ‘social class’, ‘gender’, sexual orientation, religion, spirituality, language and dialect (Lynch, 1992). This would increase our awareness and insight into our own learning processes, strengths, weakness, successes, failures, biases, values, goals and emotions. Next step is to explore the cultural differences. Culture is made up of several components such as socio-political factors, culture’s history of oppression, experience of prejudice and racism, poverty with the culture, influence of the language and arts, child rearing practices, religious practices, family role and structure, values and attitudes and the degree of opposition to acculturation’ (Locke,p5) .
Other than this, human service worker must also be aware of the differences within the cultural group because of the individuality (Locke, 1992). To work cross-culturally, human service worker has to take into consideration of the individual’s place in the society, interdependence of the individual within the culture, support from the culture, and the personal identity ( Locke,1992).
Therefore, human service worker has to ensure the balance between the individual and the group’s culture. Subsequently, by understanding our own culture and the impact on our actions lay the foundation for awareness of another culture. It can also be done through reading, interactions and involvement with other community groups (Lynch, 1992). Culture is communication, it is a way people create, send process and interpret information, so learning the language of the culture would also enhance our cultural awareness (Lynch, 1992). When dealing with cultural specific issues, human service worker has to be critical about the issues in relation to the individual’s and support’s attitudes values, beliefs and the responsive behaviour (Lynch, 1992).
The other important factor he or she has to be aware of the impact of stereotype, which is built on a foundation of misinformation and bias (Lynch,1992). It is not possible for a human service worker to possess all skills and knowledge to help people. Apt, willingness and desire ness to learn and the potential outcome for client would motivate them to acquire skills. Subsequently the human service worker has to acquire the skills in analysing the impact of social policies on the lives of people. The bigger challenge for human service worker is to deal with issues on access and equity in present society. Today’s trend of society is towards multiculturalism. It represents ‘salad bowl’ – the mixture of various ingredients that keep their individual characteristic. Therefore current policy’s implementation evolves around ‘access and equity plan'(Cox, 1991 ) This is to ensure all the members of the society gets fair and equal access to government programmes and equal rights (Cox, 1991).
Unfortunately it does not work on reality because complications arise when differing needs of cultures to be met. It can be viewed in three aspects which are how policies have been linked with specific political and economic needs during certain period of time ,personal factors affecting the individual and the group and to what extent government and non-government services should be mainstream or ethno specific. This challenges the culturally diversified group because each ethnic has different history, language, origin, religious belief, customs and political experience therefore ‘Access & Equity’ would become a well documented problem (Cox,1991). Human service worker has to take into consideration of the issues on ‘Access’. There are many barriers to access such as linguistic, financial, cultural, geographical and psychological (Cox,1991). In case of ‘Equity’, the sufficient knowledge of cultural differences, professional expertise to deal with the situation and non discriminatory attitude of the helping professional would be able to resolve cross cultural conflicts (Cox, 1991).
In reality professional limitations, ignorance, organisational restrictions would hinder the process. By means of well planned and executed strategies in areas of training, program development and resourfulness on cultural specific issues would be able to develop the skills of a human service worker. In conclusion, culture is like a mirror and is easy to see the visible aspects based on assumptions and stereotypes. The remaining hidden aspects of the culture such as the values, traditions, experiences and behaviours that defines culture which are invisible. Venturing into different cultures without adequate preparation is similar to a person with no sense of direction. Becoming aware of our own behaviour, attitudes, biases, values and customs which influence our perception would be the first step in the preparation to be an effective human service worker.
Awareness with personal growth in relation to knowledge, skills and performance would lay the foundation for the human service worker. Subsequently becoming culturally fluent in other cultures with a solid understanding of our own culture would be the next step. This increases our awareness and insight into the learning process. To, explore the critical elements of culture is by understanding the structure of the culture in relation to the individual membership through reading, interactions and involvement with other community groups. He or she would place themselves in a better position to analyse the impact of social policies affecting the culture. “Access and equity” would be the barriers for the society with diversified culture. Unfortunately the access to policies become so blocked or so marginalised. To resolve these, well planned strategies and interventions, conceptual base awareness, commitment to training and pursuit of self understanding would enable to excel the human service worker in their role.
Cox, D.(1991). Social justice and service delivery. In D.Goodman, D.J.O’Hearn, & C.Wallace – Crabbe (Eds.),Multicultural Australia: The challenges of change (pp.192-222). Newham, Vic:Scribe. Kiffiak, L ( 1994). Kiss and Tell: A Canadian perspective on the training of child and youth care workers. [online]. Available: http://www.cyc-net.org/reference/refs-kiffiak.html [Accessed on 8 April, 2003]. Locke, D.C. (1992). A model of multicultural understanding. In Increasing multicultural understanding. A comprehensive model (Ch.1, pp.1-14) Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage. Lynch, E.(1992) Developing cross-cultural competence. In E. Lynch & M. Hanson (Eds.), Developing cross cultural competence: A guide for working with young children and families (Ch.3, pp.35-59), Baltimore: Brookes. The human services worker – Making a difference in people’s lives. [online] Available: http://www.nohse.com/hsworker.html [Accessed on 8 April, 2003] (http://www.nohse.com/hsworker.html).