What are the roles of various human services professionals? 

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thanatassa's profile pic

thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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There are many different types of human service professionals, all sharing in common that they try to improve the lives and circumstances of the individuals and groups with whom they are working. Their basic function is often to represent people in need as individuals and help them negotiate complex government bureaucracies and benefit systems. Some of the roles of human service professionals include:

Case Workers: These professionals can work with individuals or families to facilitate removing barriers to optimal living. Often they help people who are entitled to various benefits to negotiate complex and bewildering bureaucracies. Case workers focus on individuals such a juvenile offenders and families with special needs. They work as advocates for the individuals they help.

Drug and Alcohol Counselor: Substance abuse is a complex phenomenon. These professionals work with addicts to integrate all the different aspects of their path back to a productive and substance-free life, including rehabilitation, counseling, job placement and other social services. 

Child Life Specialist: These professionals work with families of children with disabilities or severe medical conditions, helping them gain access to a wide range of resources and benefits. 

Group Homes: Often human services professionals work in group homes, whether for the homeless, the mentally or physically challenged, or people in recovery, both helping individuals and handling administration of the home itself. 

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lorrainecaplan's profile pic

Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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There are so many roles for the human services professional that many have become specialists in one particular area.  These range from planning, recruiting, and staffing all the way through termination and pension administration.  Let's look at just some of the roles they play.

Human resources professionals are often responsible for planning the staffing needs of an organization. This involves some prediction on their part, for example, knowing what average turnover is and knowing the ages of employees, to make sure that retiring employees are replaced.  If a new branch or store is opening or if the company is going to produce a new produce or provide a new service, these are the people who must plan for the staffing needs.

Human resources professionals also are the people who determine what a job consists of, the duties and requirements of each job in the workplace, to ensure, when they recruit, that there is a good fit. 

This is also the department that is in charge of recruiting, screening, and hiring employees.  They determine where to place postings for positions, screen all applicants, sometimes do the interviewing, and sometimes make the final decision, or sometimes allow managers to make the final decision.  They must, throughout, make sure that the recruiting, screening, and hiring processes are in compliance with anti-discrimination laws, and they also, in today's world, often have the goal of maintaining a diverse workforce.

Once people are hired, the human resources department is often responsible for initial training of various sorts, as well as on-going training and any continuing education the employees are expected to have. Some training is outsourced, but at the very least, this department is responsible for arranging for it.

Administration of benefits such as healthcare, 401(k)s, sick leave, vacation leave, and personal leave are part of the job of human resources professionals, as well as administration of the Family and Medical Leave Act and any workplace accommodations required for employees with disabilities.  They must also ensure the safety of the workplace.

Fielding complaints from employees and investigating them is another aspect of this department's responsibility.  If someone files a complaint of sexual harassment, for example, this is the department that generally takes and investigates the complaint.

Human resources people are not necessarily the people who make the decision on who is terminated, but they are closely involved in the process to see to it that terminations are done in compliance with company policy. They also are the people who respond when someone files for unemployment compensation. 

Another role is overseeing worker's compensation claims in the workplace. Human resources people typically handle the claims, make determinations about light duty work, and dispute such claims if they feel they are not justified. 

When people are retiring, the human resources department oversees this process, since pension benefits are part of their job. 

You can see that human resources professionals handle a variety of tasks. They are a very important part of any organization, involved with the process from planning to exit.

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