The basic conclusion to be drawn from this extensive review of available information regarding educational programs in the human services offered primarily through community colleges is that the field lacks an identified center of coherence structurally as well as educationally. Programmatic uniqueness, a lack of new or consistently reported research and data on human services programs, and the volunteer nature of the organizational and accreditation structures, coupled with the difficulty in understanding the nature of the flow of students from the community college human service programs into baccalaureate social work programs lead to several recommendations.
First, it is recommended that CSWE survey its accredited BSW programs to determine the nature and extent of their interaction with community college human service programs and the flow of students from one educational level to the other. This survey would seek additional information about issues in articulation between the associate and baccalaureate degree programs as well as suggestions for enhancing such articulation. The latter component would be explored further with a small task force formed in cooperation with the BPD (or selected program directors self-identified from the survey) who would have one face-to-face meeting in conjunction with the fall 2007 CSWE APM.
Second and bridging from the survey, a number of “pilot” programs would be identified with which CSWE (through the Gero-Ed Center) would work to develop a specific articulation focus and recruitment strategy in the area of social work with the aging. This project would be developed and submitted for funding to Hartford and going through the Gero-Ed Center or as a possible component under the renewal application to the Hartford Foundation. Timing and specifics of the project along with measurable outcomes of student recruitment to work with the aging population would be part of the proposal. Such a proposal would also have a component of incentive for the community college programs to “buy in” to the gerontology focus and the articulation with BSW programs.
One of the challenges human services education has faced from the very beginning is clarity of definition and articulation of the relationships with other helping professions, especially social work and, more recently, counseling (Simon, 1990). The author suggests that human services should define the field’s uniqueness and how human services education differs from social work. This is not an easy task, because the development of educational programs in human services was so closely related to the growth of the BSW in the early 1970s. Fullerton (1990) suggests that there was significant overlap in the efforts to develop curricula for the helping professions, and that “in fact, social workers provided much of the leadership for the development of bachelor’s-level human services programs” (p. 77).
Currently, both human services and social work education have accrediting bodies that have specific standards for educational programs at different levels. The following is a discussion of the standards, noting similarities and differences in the philosophical bases of each profession’s foundation, the field experience requirements, and expectations for faculty qualifications. Human services programs are accredited by the Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE) and social work education programs at the baccalaureate and master’s levels are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
CSHSE maintains that applying an interdisciplinary approach to learning is a benchmark of human services education, and educational programs are designed with the needs of major employers in mind; thus, the standards’ emphasis is on skills. In comparison, social work education is grounded in the liberal arts and the profession’s history, purposes, and values, resulting in expectations for coverage of a broad range of content regarding the profession’s knowledge base, skills, and values (Council on Social Work Education, 2004).
Further, for both human services and social work, field experience is a key element of the educational program. CSHSE defines it as “a learning experience in a human services delivery organization” (Council for Standards in Human Service Education, 2005a), whereas, social work defines it as occurring “in settings that reinforce students’ identification with the purposes, values, and ethics of the [social work] profession” (CSWE, 2004, p.10). Besides these general conceptions of purpose and settings, the standards for the minimum requirements and the student supervision differ. CSHSE requires field experience for the associate degree granting programs to be no less than 250 clock hours, with 1 credit granted for at least 3 hours field per week. Those 250 hours include the requirement of 180 clock hours from the technical/ certificate level, and this “transfer” of hours is true for the advanced level as well (i.e., baccalaureate programs in human services would require a total of 350 clock hours of field, but 250 of those are “transferred” from the associate level). Social work education requires a minimum of 400 hours of field for baccalaureate programs, and this experience has to occur within the auspices and supervision of the program and be independent of and not associated with the student’s employment.
Both human services and social work standards require field experience to be integrated in the curriculum as well as supervised and systematically evaluated. In regards to the supervision of students in their field placements, human services requires the field supervisors to have no less than the same credential or degree the program awards, with a recommendation of one degree level above, and preferably a master’s degree (Council for Standards in Human Service Education, 2005a). CSWE on the other hand has a strong expectation that faculty who supervise the field practica at the baccalaureate level will hold CSWE-accredited baccalaureate or master’s social work degrees and at the master’s level will hold a CSWE-accredited master’s degree (Council on Social Work Education, 2004).
As to other faculty teaching in the programs, human services and social work have some differences in their expectations as well. Human services takes pride in its interdisciplinary faculty who come from fields such as human services, psychology, sociology, social work, counseling, political science, adult education, and nursing. Teaching faculty are required to have at least one degree above the level they teach, and a master’s degree is recommended (Council for Standards in Human Service Education, 2005a). CSWE has a set of specific requirements that address separately the qualification of social work administrators, field coordinators, faculty who teach practice courses, and the number of full-time faculty assigned to each program. A BSW or MSW degree from a CSWE-accredited institution is often one of the requirements for faculty in those positions (Council on Social Work Education, 2004).
These differences in the requirements for faculty qualifications, as well as the philosophical bases and organization of content within programs, seem to create much of the tension in the discussion of student transfer from human services associate degree programs to BSW programs. In order to further augment the available information, the author held a conference call with a group of baccalaureate social work program directors about perceptions of human services degree programs and issues. The Association of Baccalaureate Program Directors (BPD) provided names of potential contacts for the discussion to the author. This report reflects the perceptions of top level administrators regarding barriers to student transfer from human services associate degree programs to BSW programs. Students were not consulted at any point of this discussion. Although the administrators expressed concern about students, their frustrations and challenges are conditioned by their positions and pressures to maintain academic/ program/ professional quality and integrity.
Both human services and social work administrators seemed to be concerned with the types and number of courses that can be transferred. A common misconception is that the transferability of a course is predicated on the qualifications of the faculty who teach it, and that CSWE has standards that set such requirements. That is, human services administrators implied BSW programs were concerned with whether a course was taught by an MSW credentialed faculty, when in fact the concern could have also involved the content and purpose of the course to be transferred.
The issue that dominated the discussion with both human services and social work administrators was the practicum or field placement – recognizing and awarding transfer credit. Looking at the accreditation standards for both types of education, one can see that both human services and social work place much importance on field experience. As outlined above, the standards of both establish a minimum requirement for the educational levels between which they distinguish. Human services standards begin with the technical level (180 hours), which is followed by the associate level (250 hours) and ‘transfer’ or ‘inclusion’ of the hours from the previous level into the next is acceptable (Council for Standards in Human Service Education, 2005). Social work on the other hand requires a minimum of 400 hours under the supervision of a faculty coordinator who has a CSWE-accredited MSW degree (Council on Social Work Education, 2004). This is because social work sees field education as professional socialization and opportunity for students to apply social work knowledge, values and skills.
Human services administrators were also concerned about students being forced to “repeat” content, or conversely, about the sequencing of courses in the human services associate programs and BSW programs. In effect, what needs to be recognized is that the professional purposes of the two programs are very different. Thus, the BSW, and social work in general, emphasize a sound liberal arts foundation on which professional skills and values are built, whereas human services is skills driven and aims at teaching competencies employers require. Therefore, when assessing transfer students, BSW programs look for candidates who have taken liberal arts foundation classes which human services students lack. It is also true that BSW programs usually require some introductory social work profession classes that fulfill the foundation content requirements for CSWE accreditation. Indeed, many of the social work educators, when discussing articulation agreements, mentioned the inclusion of such courses as key elements to successful agreements.
A distinction that was not made by either social work or human services administrators, but one worth exploring, would be the difference between human services two-year degrees that are “transferable”, specifically designed with student transfer in mind and are often labeled “liberal studies”, and those that are terminal or result in certificates. This distinction still exists in community colleges, although scholars like Cohen & Brawer (2003) maintain that “the categories “vocational” and “transfer” became inadequate … and “terminal” certainly … obsolete” (p. 249). The authors further suggest that the separate funding streams for the liberal arts and vocational curricula will continue to prevent mergers or crossovers, despite the fact that such arrangements may be in the interest of students.
Finally, both human services and BSW administrators may benefit from a continued discussion on transfer and articulation agreements as well as what elements make those agreements successful. In the discussions with both the human services leadership and baccalaureate social work faculty, it was suggested that best practices of existing articulation agreements be compiled. Further, research on the experience of students who have actually transferred from an associate in human services to a BSW program could also provide insights as to what are specific barriers as well as motivations of students, and what may be done to assure a smooth and supportive learning experience for those students.
Specialized professional accreditation is done through the Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE), which was established in 1979. CSHSE is seeking recognition from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), but is not currently recognized.
The Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE) began as a national, voluntary organization of human services educational institutions. In its first years, the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) funded a project (1980-83) aimed at supporting the development and maintenance of human services standards, faculty training, and creating national awareness of human services education (Brown, 1990). At present, CSHSE has taken the lead to provide specific guidelines for human services education programs. The first accreditation standards were created in the early 1980s, revised in 1989, and most recently in 2005.
The CSHSE accreditation standards have two sections and address both program characteristics and curriculum. The standards addressing program characteristics focus on the philosophy of human services, specific program objectives and their evaluation, procedures affecting students, the credentials of faculty, program support and administration, and transferability of credits and transition between degree levels. Further, there is a heavy emphasis on skills which should be taught, values, and the importance of a supervised field experience. The standards distinguish three levels of education: technical/ non-degree granting, associate degree, and advanced degree. Each standard contains specifications that outline the minimal level of compliance at each of the three levels (Council for Standards in Human Service Education, 2005). Table 1 below offers a detailed listing of the content of each standard.
The CSHSE website contains information on institutional members who support its work (currently 77 active members), the 33 programs that are currently accredited, and the 15 programs that have been accredited in the past. Annual membership in the organization is set at $300, and is a prerequisite to accreditation. Many members however, never seek accreditation but may actively support the CSHSE mission. Accreditation is granted for five years and the accreditation fee is $350.
As a condition of accreditation, institutions are required to maintain current membership in CSHSE (Council for Standards in Human Service Education, 2005b).
CSHSE is the standard setting and approval body, and its members are programs and institutions. Human services educators, professionals and providers, as well as students are all eligible to join the National Organization for Human Services (NOHS), an organization founded in 1975 and originally called the National Organization for Human Service Educators. The recent change in name of the organization was to encourage more students and human services workers to join the organization and have a stronger professional identification (John Heapes, personal communication, June 19, 2006). Since its founding, NOHS has held annual conferences and regularly publishes a journal (first issue was in 1979, then annually in the fall; in 1986 the journal was renamed Human Service Education). Currently NOHS supports several regional organizations which offer separate annual conferences to address the distinct needs within each region (National Organization for Human Services, n.d.- c).
CSHSE and NOHS work in close cooperation as they were initiated by the same key organization (SREB) and individuals (McPheeters) and because both have the goal to promote and further the human services field. Detailed history of the development of the professional organizations is provided in The History of the Human Services Movement (Fullterton & Osher, 1990). Appendix D contains most current contact information for both CSHSE Board of Directors and the NOHS general and regional bodies.
Similarly to data on programs, there is a lack of literature on students and faculty in human services programs. Brawley (1981) conducted a national survey of human services programs in community colleges, and found that the students in those programs were mostly women, members of a minority group, and enrollment was increasing or stable. One third of the responding programs also reported that more than half of their graduates transferred to a four-year institution. The follow up survey (Schindler & Brawley, 1993) confirmed that student enrollment had slightly increased or remained stable in the years between the two studies, that minority student enrollment had dropped slightly reflecting a general trend in community college enrollment, and there were more female students.
McClam and Kessler (1982) studied the employment status and job satisfaction of graduates of a single human services program and found that field experiences provided most employment opportunities. The CSHSE administrators and experts in human services education confirmed that students often will identify their major with the activity of their field placement agency (rather than “human services”). More recently, when exploring student motivation, Woodside, McClam, Diambra and Kronick (2003) found that the program and curriculum, along with personal experience, were the primary factors affecting student decision to pursue a major in human services.
CSHSE member programs in the past years reveal a continuing trend of former human services clients becoming human services students themselves through employment training programs. The percentage of minorities in those programs is higher than in other programs. In addition, there are an increasing number of students who hold administrative positions in agencies, and seek professional development opportunities (John Heapes, personal communication, June 19, 2006). No other literature was found that could shed light on student or faculty profiles.
The emphasis in human services educational programs, especially at the associate degree level, is on skill acquisition. This emphasis reflects the history of the profession and the need to meet employer demands. The National Organization for Human Services (NOHS) (n.d. – b) suggests that human services programs prepare “an entirely new kind of worker, the ‘generalist’.” Thus, most programs offer a core curriculum in human services, focusing on a variety of general helping skills, and include some liberal arts education courses (e.g., English, mathematics, sciences, etc.). A major component of all human services education is the field practicum since experiential learning or learning-by-doing is a key principle.
The concept of the “generalist” is not descriptive of the human services education only. In human services, the concept was developed to describe the academic training of workers (mental health worker, indigenous worker, aide, or paraprofessional) who served as liaison between clients and professionals, worked in community settings and helped the client negotiate the system. The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and McPheeters had much influence in developing the concept as it applies to human services (for a detailed discussion, see McPheeters, 1990). Today, training in core competencies is emphasized and more recently, in 1993, CSHSE partnered with the Human Services Research Institute (HSRI) in a national effort to identify the skills, behaviors and knowledge used by entry and mid-level human services professionals. As a result, the Community Skill Standards were created. These were designed to provide a guide for frontline direct support professionals, and promote the use of the skills in the work place. CSHSE standards address the incorporation of these skills in human services educational programs (Council for Standards on Human Services Education, 2005).
As part of the community colleges, human services associate degree programs are also subject to fulfilling one of the missions of the community college as an institution, namely, the desire to meet the needs and increasing demands of employers and growing industries. Consequently, in addition to the “generalist” degree, many programs have developed more narrow specializations, offered as either certificates or separate, stand-alone programs. Most notably, specialized programs are identified in child care, juvenile justice, addictions, corrections, and gerontology.
The United States Department of Labor projects that the social and human services assistants will be the fastest growing occupation in the social services industry (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2006) (See Appendix A, Table 3.). Further, the NOHS projects that most of the jobs in human services will be in working with the elderly, mentally impaired, and developmentally disabled (National Organization for Human Services, n.d.-b). Programs preparing the workforce for the field of aging and gerontology continue to be identified as “hot programs,” or programs for which there is a large market demand for graduating students (McPhee, 2004; Nock & Shults, 2001). In their most recent profile of the community colleges (4th edition), the American Association of Community Colleges maintains that the community college is the largest and fastest growing sector of higher education and plays a critical role in preparing the nation’s workforce (Phillippe & Sullivan, 2005). Moreover, allied health and social/human services programs are consistently among the “hot” programs in community colleges across the nation and are projected to remain so for the next decade.
The 1999 CSHSE National Directory of Human Service Programs lists 22 institutions that have a concentration in gerontology (Blair, 1999). Appendix C contains a list of those, as well as information regarding the current program/concentration availability or lack thereof, and Internet link to the institutions’ web sites. Of those institutions, only two still have a human services affiliation.
While nine institutions seem to have discontinued the gerontology concentration, it should be noted that the degrees and/or certificates offered by the remaining thirteen institutions are through social work schools/departments, medical centers, and centers/ institutes specializing in aging. The CSHSE President, Mr. John Heapes, in a phone conversation of June 19, 2006, commented that most programs have a gerontological practicum site where students can be placed, irrespective of the specific focus of the program or the availability of a concentration or certificate in gerontology or aging (John Heapes, personal communication, June 19, 2006).
Today there are 1,186 community colleges in the United States (American Association of Community Colleges, 2006) and at least 177 of them offer human services associate degrees (Petersons, n.d.) (see Appendix B for a list of colleges offering programs and geographic distribution). Educational programs in human services are broadly defined, however, because the field draws on the knowledge base of multiple disciplines from the social sciences, sciences, and humanities. Therefore, compiling a list of human services programs, degrees, and certificates is challenging.
Human services programs often have mental health, or family studies in the title in addition to or independently of human services. Further, human services degrees are also granted at the bachelor’s, master’s and even doctoral levels, yet little data exists to estimate more precisely the number of institutions and degrees granted annually. The National Organization for Human Services (n.d.-A) maintains that “the number of certificate, associate, baccalaureate and more recently graduate degrees in human services has grown to more than five hundred academic programs”. Other scholars (Brawley, 1981; Brawley & Schindler, 1972) report similar numbers of human services programs based on surveys of community college administrators.
In 1991, the Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE) compiled a national directory, which listed 614 human service programs. The directory was updated in 1999; this last edition of the directory lists 910 programs (Blair, 1999). A review of the hard copy of the directory obtained through CSHSE, indicates that a wide variety of programs are included. Further, the same institution was listed multiple times depending on the number and degree programs it offered. Thus, for example, the associate degree programs that contained “human services” in the title were 317. Forty-five programs granted an Associate in Social Work/ Welfare, and the remaining ranged from psychology to child and family studies to art and/ or music therapy. Certificate-only programs were offered in 20 academic institutions, and 17 programs were by a provider other than a community college, such as medical centers and local government agencies. The directory included 88 baccalaureate level programs containing “human services” in the name, as well as 20 master’s and 2 doctoral programs. Further, 120 programs were marked as offering baccalaureate or master’s degrees in majors that did not contain “human services” (Blair, 1999).
The above analysis of the CSHSE directory illustrates the methodological issues and difficulties in obtaining accurate data on the number of human services programs. Those difficulties were discussed with the President and Vice President for Accreditation of CSHSE in a conference call (John Heapes & Susan Kincaid, personal communication, June 19, 2006). One of the major issues CSHSE highlighted in identification of human services programs was the academic department/division under which the degree was offered as well as the variation in the names of the degrees. This confirmed the findings of the background search and analysis, and represents a major issue not only in establishing the number of programs and their geographic distribution, but also in determining the student and faculty profiles, number of degrees granted annually, and so on.
Traditionally, human services programs resulted in an associate degree, but today, programs are also offered at the baccalaureate and graduate levels. Associate degree programs are not necessarily housed in a human services or other particular academic division. They may be offered in departments of education, allied health, psychology, sociology or independently. They are not administered by a particular professional designation, and the faculty is drawn from a diversity of related disciplines. Similarly, there is no readily available statistic on the number of human services degrees granted in recent years. The Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics does not provide a detailed breakout of the numbers of degrees granted or full and part time students for each field and major. Moreover, since the human services associate degree programs may be housed under various departments, it is very difficult to make anything other than an estimate.
In the 1950s and 1960s a number of legislative changes coupled with the “Great Society” programs under President Lyndon Johnson’s administration necessitated a number of new services and respectively a new and qualified class of workers to perform these services (McPheeters, 1990). The deinstitutionalization of persons with psychiatric disabilities, viewed by many as one of the most significant changes in health policy in the 20th century, directly affected the human services workforce. Two significant federal developments in 1963 influenced the development and increased need for services and service providers with skills in direct care in a community setting. Those were the Aid to the Disabled, which for the first time made the mentally ill eligible for federal financial support in the community, and the Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act, amended in 1965, that provided grants for the initial costs of staffing the newly constructed centers, and initiated the development of community programs for the mentally ill.
Consequently, there was a need to develop training and education programs that taught mental health/ human services competencies. In 1956, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) funded the first associate degree program in mental health at Purdue University, which could be said to be the forerunner of human services programs in the United States. The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) was the second organization which took the lead in the human services education movement. McPheeters (1990) details the leadership role of the organization in the initial feasibility study for training of human services workers in the community colleges (SREB, 1966), as well as the development of the human services education philosophy, curriculum content and structure, faculty training, and the “generalist” human services worker concept.
Human services education development coincided with several other movements. One was the New Careers program, funded by the United States Department of Labor, and intended to provide work and study opportunities for unemployed and underemployed adults. The program targeted the poor and minorities, and was based on the assumption that those “indigenous workers” could obtain some formal education and serve as a “bridge” between schools or social agencies and inner-city residents in need of services. Consequently, a number of educational programs were launched to train different types of aides, and many of those were offered through community colleges. The growth of the community college as an institution was a key driving force behind the development of human services educational programs at the associate degree level. Cohen & Brawer (2003), point out that one of the major social forces contributing to the rise of the community colleges and proliferation of new programs was “the need for workers trained to operate the nation’s expanding industries” (p.1). In this respect the community colleges fulfilled their mission of serving the community at large, as well as providing access to low cost education that prepared entry-level professionals in far less time than the four-year baccalaureate degree programs.
The workforce in the fields of social and human services is diverse and includes professionals, paraprofessionals, administrators and managers, as well as other support staff. This paper is concerned particularly with paraprofessional workers. In the past, such workers were referred to as pre-professionals or sub-professionals in addition to paraprofessionals. Today, human and social services workers occupy entry-level positions such as aides, technicians, and assistants. These workers usually provide direct services to individuals, families, groups, and communities and work under the supervision of licensed social workers, nurses and other professional personnel. The roles, titles, and settings in which human service workers operate are numerous, but the client populations have traditionally included people with chronic and mental health illness, disabilities and substance abuse problems, and as well as, at risk families, children and older adults (National Organization for Human Services, n.d.-b).
The concept and title “Human Service Worker” was introduced in the late 1960s, first in the academy and then later adopted by employers (Brawley, 1981). This title was subsequently modified to “Social and Human Service Assistant”, which is the current, official occupational classification provided by the United States Department of Labor (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2006a). An alternative definition is provided by the National Organization for Human Services (NOHS, n.d.-a). Some of the functions of these workers include case management and service brokering, teaching daily living skills and/or providing therapeutic assistance, live-in support and residential management, personal care and assistance, leisure-time assistance, job-related support, coaching, mentoring and job development. Custodial, security, intake or administrative roles are usually not performed by human service workers.
Most individuals employed as social and human service assistants are required to have some educational experience beyond the high school diploma. A baccalaureate degree is not required, but a certificate or an associate’s degree is preferred by employers with the academic credentials often influencing the type of responsibility and job assignment. Employers typically provide some form of in-service training and in some cases, professional development opportunities (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2006a).
The Bureau of Labor Statistics from the United States Department of Labor (2006b), reports that in 2004 the number of jobs held by social and human service assistants was about 352,000. This occupational category is among the most rapidly growing of all occupations, a projected 29.7% increase in total employment from 2004 to 2014. The projected growth of the social and human services assistants is expected to be larger in the private sector and industry than in local government. The social assistance industry profile shows overall increase in jobs of 33% by 2014, while the social and human service assistants’ projection for growth is 45.6%. This growth is greater than the projected average for many other social assistance industry occupations, such as social workers (35%), registered nurses (34%), and home health aides (44%) (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2006b).
Despite the projected increase of job opportunities and occupational growth, the median earnings of such workers are low, which, one might infer, contributes to the documented high worker turnover. Appendix A contains tables that illustrate the growth projections and earnings comparisons. When compared with occupations in the industry requiring similar educational attainment, social and human service assistants earn much less than occupations that hold professional certification (e.g., LPN) (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2006b).
The emergence of human services programs at the community college level and the general growth of community colleges in the 1960s and 1970s, were major developments in higher education that stimulated a discussion of the need, role and future of preparing entry-level and direct service workers for human services agencies. The literature addressing the need for those new careers and professional training is mainly from the late 1960s through the mid 1970s. Publications on human services programs vary in subject matter, ranging from concept papers on the creation of schools or programs in human services to publications that develop program philosophy and curricula (Brawley, 1975; Cohen, A., 1974; Hales & Hyder, 1974; Steely, 1975).
Another major theme in the literature concerns the roles, advantages and issues in hiring human services non-professional workers (Cohen, R. 1976; Cohen, R., 1978, Brawley & Schindler, 1972; Grosser, Henry & Kelly, 1969; Robin & Wagenfeld, 1981). There are a few reviews of existing
academic programs (Burns, 1971; Pickett, 1984), the need for an associate degree credentialed workforce (Brawley, 1974; Steely, 1975), issues with credentialing and career advancement (Lesh, 1976), the quality of work delivered by paraprofessional workers (Gartner & Lipsky, 1971), and perceptions of paraprofessional worker roles (Burleigh, Archer, & Freeman, 1979).
The role of paraprofessional human services workers in federal probation (Gordon, 1976), as well as working with economically disadvantaged groups, in education and special education (Pickett, 1986; United States Extension Service, 1977; United States Extension Service, 1986) are additional topics found in the earlier discussion. More recently, but not included in this review, are research and policy analyses conducted by professional organizations of child care workers, direct-care workers, and paraeducators (i.e. teachers’ aides and assistants).
The interaction between both social work education and human services education and the social service roles at different levels of practice, however, is the subject most relevant to this paper. The academic discussion and literature are dominated by a few authors. In 1972, Brawley and Schindler began a series of national surveys of community college programs for the human services that sought to identify trends in the number of programs, student enrollment, transfers and outcomes (Brawley, 1981; Brawley & Schindler, 1972; Schindler & Brawley, 1993). In their reports, the authors note that there is a need for research to further address the relationship between human services associate degrees and baccalaureate social work degrees, including an examination of the flow of students between the two types.
Mullen (1976), in an early study examined the question of articulation and the relationship between social work education programs and transferability from human services community college programs. He designed an extensive survey that was sent to the 217 baccalaureate social work programs then accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The response rate was high (84%) with only twenty percent of the responding programs indicating that they had no human services transfer students. The study found that graduates of two-year human services programs
accounted for a significant number of BSW students, but that the distribution of those students among programs was uneven. Further, Mullen (1976) discussed the advantages and disadvantages of evaluation procedures BSW programs used to assess academic transferability. Despite the fact that most programs were found to use the same evaluation mechanisms for all transfer students, the author found that evaluating previous learning was a major challenge BSW programs cited in assessing graduates of associate human services programs, and recommended developing procedures that were more relevant and efficient.
The John A. Hartford Foundation (hereafter, “Hartford Foundation”) has had substantial and significant involvement with social work education and research in the area of gerontology at the baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral levels. At the same time, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) was interested in understanding the opportunities for educational transfer from associate degree programs in human services into CSWE accredited baccalaureate social work programs, specifically, the nature of articulation agreements and the possible recruitment of students into the baccalaureate programs. In the Spring of 2006, the Hartford Foundation approached the author of this paper, to discuss the relationship and potential needs of students at the associate or professional degree level, specifically those students in human services degree programs. In order to address these interests, the author used a three-tiered approach, including (1) conducting a thorough search and analysis of the literature available on human services degrees, especially as related to social work; (2) approaching the leadership from human services organizations to further discuss issues and perceptions of programs and graduates; and (3) coordinating a series of structured discussions with baccalaureate social work faculty, deans, and directors about the transition of human services graduates into baccalaureate programs.
The purpose of this paper is to integrate the findings from the literature, human services leadership meetings, and structured discussions to provide background information on human services educational programs resulting in a professional or transfer associate degree offered at community colleges throughout the United States. Special attention is given to the connection of these programs to social work education, the flow of students from human services to baccalaureate social work (BSW) programs, and perceived barriers to transfer and articulation agreements at the institutional level.
The paper is organized in several sections: first, a review of the literature on the need for and philosophy of human services programs and their interaction and relevance to social work education; second, the human services worker is defined along with a brief overview of the history and development of the human services education movement; third, the human services educational programs and curriculum content are discussed, as well as standards for professional education as designated by the accrediting body and other national organizations for human services; and finally, the existing research and data on student and faculty profiles, the differences between human services and social work accreditation standards, and issues on transfer of human services students from community colleges to the baccalaureate social work programs around the nation are summarized.
One of the major challenges in writing this report was obtaining reliable and current data that could help in understanding and interpreting the human services program and student profiles. Such information was not readily available, and with a limited timeframe for study, it was not possible to conduct a thorough search by state. It is feasible that important information may be available in each state through the Department of Education, such as types of human services programs and/ or majors, student enrollment, and degrees granted annually for the respective community colleges in that state.
This paper provides background information on human services educational programs offered at community colleges throughout the United States and resulting in a professional or transfer associate’s degree, focusing specifically on how programs are related to and interact with social work education. The paper offers an overview of the history and development of the human services education movement, including the human services educational program content, the standards for professional accreditation, and issues of transfer of human services students from community colleges to baccalaureate social work programs.
Obtaining reliable and current data on the existing human services programs, the number of degrees granted annually, as well as faculty and student profiles were major deterrents to a complete understanding of human services education. In order to augment the information available in the literature, the author held a number of meetings and consultations with human services education leadership and coordinated structured discussions with baccalaureate social work program directors.
Background and Findings
The first human services educational programs were created in the late 1950s to meet the demand for workers with mental health/human services competencies. Today those programs are broadly defined and often have mental health, or family studies in the title in addition to or independently of human services. These programs’ graduates are called “Social and Human Service Assistant”, which is the current, official occupational classification provided by the United States Department of Labor (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2006a) and they provide services such as case management and service brokering, teaching daily living skills and/or providing therapeutic assistance, live-in support and residential management, personal care and assistance, leisure-time assistance, job-related support, coaching, mentoring and job development. In 2004, over 350,000 jobs were held by social and human service assistants and the United States Department of Labor (2006b) projects this ccupational category to be among the most rapidly growing in the social services industry for the period from 2004 to 2014.
The emphasis in human services educational programs is on skill acquisition and preparing a qualified workforce. Today human and social services workers occupy entry-level positions such as aides, technicians, and assistants. Those workers usually provide direct services to individuals, families, groups, and communities and work under the supervision of licensed social workers, nurses, and other professional personnel.
Traditionally, human services programs resulted in an associate’s degree, but today, programs at the baccalaureate and graduate level claim to prepare graduates to be not only direct service workers but also program managers and coordinators with supervisory skills. In addition to the “generalist” degree, many human service programs have developed more narrow specializations, offered as either certificates or separate, stand-alone programs, in the areas of child care, juvenile justice, addictions, corrections, and gerontology. As many as 910 of the nearly 1,100 community colleges in the United States offer human services education and training programs.
Little data exist to estimate more precisely the number of institutions, degrees and certificates granted annually. Anecdotally, aging is not well represented in these curricula. Human services leadership commented that most programs do have a gerontological practicum site where students may be placed, irrespective of the specific focus of the program or the availability of a concentration or certificate in gerontology or aging.
Many students with an associate’s degree in human services still decide to pursue a baccalaureate degree in social work. The issues of credit transfer and articulation agreements between human services and social work programs are not new. In the discussions the author coordinated with social work administrators, it was suggested that both fields may benefit from a continued discussion on transfer and articulation agreements as well as what elements make those agreements successful.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Second and bridging from the survey, a number of “pilot” programs would be identified with which CSWE (through the Gero-Ed Center) would work to develop a specific articulation focus and recruitment strategy in the area of social work with the aging. This project would be developed and submitted for funding to Hartford and going through the Gero-Ed Center or as a possible component under the renewal application to the Hartford Foundation. Timing and specifics of the project along with measurable outcomes of student recruitment to work with the aging population would be part of the proposal. Such a proposal would also have an incentive component for the community college programs to “buy in” to the gerontology focus and the articulation with BSW programs.
Executive Summary and Recommendations written by Julia M. Watkins, Executive Director, Council on Social Work Education.
This research was supported by a grant from the John A Hartford Foundation.
Most Recent Issue