This is the fourth of a series of articles focusing on ethics in child and youth care worker training and development. The previous articles provided an introduction to the National Staff Development and Training Association's Code of Ethics for Training and Development Professionals, discussion regarding core values and principles, and ethical responsibilities to clients. The full document can be retrieved from the NSDTA website (http://nsdta.aphsa.org).
This article will explore standards from the NSDTA Code emphasizing ethical responsibilities as professionals. Each standard will be followed by an example of compliance and non-compliance. The illustrations are intended to promote understanding of the standards. However, they are not intended to be absolute. Although all of the examples in this article do not specifically mention child and youth care worker trainers, the implications are very relevant to child and youth care worker training and development activities.
Responsibilities as Professionals
Training and development professionals should develop and maintain competence in two major areas (1) the human service competency area that one is providing training and development activities (e.g., child abuse and neglect) and (2) the training and development competencies pertaining to one’s training and development role/job (see competencies for nine T&D roles in NSDTA Training and Development Competency Model., 2001). Training and development professionals do not practice outside their areas of competence. If one is not proficient in a required competency area, then one should either improve one’s competence or discontinue practice in that area. Temporary improvement in competence may occur by teaming with another professional competent in that area (e.g., a curriculum development writer teaming with a subject matter expert in a human service area such as working with children affected by divorce).
A training unit recently lost their trainer with specialized expertise in the area of sexual abuse. A mandatory training on sexual abuse must be completed for each new worker (within 60 days of hire). The training unit supervisor locates a sex abuse supervisor who is very knowledgeable about sex abuse (subject matter expert) but has not been a trainer. The training unit staff partner the supervisor with an experienced trainer on general child welfare competency areas. The training unit staff also facilitate planning sessions with the co-trainers and help to prepare them to conduct the specialized sexual abuse training by reviewing a structured curriculum and developing a plan regarding their division of responsibilities during the training (taking into consideration their areas of strength).
An experienced trainer accepts a contract to conduct training on the topic of “Failure to Thrive" even though she does not have the experiential background or specific training in this content area to competently train the topic. The trainer has highly skilled “platform" skills and thinks that she can incorporate some fun activities and probably find a video that can address the topic.
Training and development activities should only be used to address legitimate training and development needs. Training and development activities are not used when other non-training and development interventions are more appropriate.
A child care director requests a specific training package on the topic of discipline and behavior management. After discussion with the child care director the training manager learned that there has been an increase in the use of physical restraints by child and youth care staff during the past year. Prior to making a decision on the scheduling of the training, the training manager decides to conduct a more comprehensive needs assessment that includes the review of past training on discipline related topics, an assessment of staff motivation for attending and implementing discipline-related training, an examination of critical incident reports involving physical restraint, and discussion with key informants regarding training and behavior management of the children in care. In addition, a close examination of the suggested training package as it relates to specific identified training needs is planned to be assessed. Possible alternative training options will also be explored. In addition, factors other than staff training that may be affecting the children's behavior will be examined before scheduling training.
A child support enforcement agency is using a form that is poorly designed resulting in a problem of staff incorrectly completing the form. The agency administrator requests the training department to “retrain" all of the staff on the proper way to complete the required form. The training department agrees to train the staff and does not inform management of the problems concerning the form.
Training and development activities should not be used to solicit contributions or support for political, religious, or other causes (However, client advocacy training and development activities may be appropriate based upon identified training and/or development needs).
A trainer is campaigning for a local politician. He often wears political campaign buttons and talks about the candidate at work. The training supervisor meets with the trainer prior to an upcoming training session to remind him that he is not to wear campaign buttons or talk about the politician during the training sessions.
During breaks, a trainer talks to participants about the products she sells for a second job. She refuses to stop this activity even though some participants have expressed a discomfort in her “strong-sell" tactics.
Training and development activities should not be used to sell products or services or provide opportunities that can be used to benefit the financial interests of the training and development professional. Although training and development professionals may receive payment for conducting training and development activities and/or providing a product that address identified training and/or development needs, class time should not be used for promotional purposes.
A regional training center has developed an outstanding curriculum that includes innovative approaches. The curriculum was developed and paid for with funds from state and federal programs. The training center offers the curriculum to other agencies at a cost that covers the time and expenses to duplicate the materials but does not make a “profit" for the training department.
A trainer who has authored a book dealing with children with attention deficit disorder is contracted to conduct a training session on the topic. During the training, the trainer often references his book for specific suggestions on assessment and intervention. The trainer provides no “hand-out" materials (except for a book order form) to supplement the training (even though the cost for duplicating hand-outs is covered by the training center). Instead, the trainer states that participants may purchase the autographed copies of the book during breaks and after the training. The trainer extends the breaks and ends the training early so that participants may purchase the book.
Training and development professionals should include transfer of learning activities/interventions in all training and development initiatives.
Before the training, a trainer sends a brief email message to the participants asking them to think about how the upcoming training will apply to their cases. During the training the trainer routinely stops the training periodically and asks the participants to think about how to use the training with their cases. After the training, the trainer sends the participants a postcard with a brief reminder to think about how they will apply what they learned in training with their cases.
A subject matter expert in substance abuse does not attempt to adapt his training content to the different populations he trains. He makes no attempt to identify specific substance abuse issues relevant to each training group.
Training and development professionals should incorporate strategies and/or content to facilitate cultural competence in all training.
A curriculum designer routinely uses a curriculum development checklist that includes a reminder to address cultural competence.
A trainer of social workers in a rural community does not attempt to modify her training on child abuse and neglect factors since the client population is almost 100% white.
Training and development professionals should promote the use of training evaluation and research to improve training and development activities. Training and development professionals should adhere to principles of best practice in evaluation and research.
A child protective services training evaluator recognizes the need to explore the relationship between training, transfer of learning and later staff retention. The training evaluator submits a grant proposal for federal funding that includes the planned study’s rationale, conceptual assumptions and hypotheses, methodology and research design (including plan for data analysis), protections for study participants, how the results will be disseminated, and how the information will be used.
A trainer is expected to administer a post-training knowledge test to the participants. However, the trainer believes that the testing process will lower her ratings on the evaluation questionnaire completed by the participants at the end of training. So that she can potentially increase her evaluation scores (and her chances of being re-contracted to train), a trainer provides the exact questions and answers to the test in a “review session" immediately preceding the test administration.
When an instrument is used in training and development activities (e.g., learning style inventory), training and development professionals should follow recommended guidelines regarding the instrument’s intended audience and procedures for application. Results should be appropriately interpreted to the training and development users based upon known information regarding the instrument’s validity for the application. Potential misapplication of an instrument and/or misinterpretation of its results should be avoided.
When administering a learning style inventory to a group of human services management trainees, the trainer reminds the group of the limitations of a “paper and pencil" instrument and asks the participants to think of the tool as “potential learning tool" only. The trainer reminds the participants to look for other indicators in addition to the tool (e.g., feedback from colleagues) to help “validate" the results and implications for learning and application of learning. The trainer also reminds the group to remember the limitations of categorizing people as one style or another.
A trainer administers a learning style inventory to a group of newly hired child protective services workers. When discovering that one of the participants” scores reflect a style that is considered more typical of someone from a non-human services field, the trainer suggests to the participant that he should seriously consider finding another job more consistent with his learning style (even though there has been no research to establish predictive validity between learning style and successful employment in child protective services).
Training and development records should be maintained by the training and development professional. At a minimum the following data should be maintained: a description of curriculum content areas addressed, participant handout materials, and attendance.
The staff development department maintains accurate and comprehensive files pertaining to every training session provided by the department. Included within the files are curriculum content (including handout material), trainer’s resume, attendance records, and training evaluations.
A training department maintains records that are known to be incomplete and inaccurate. The training director believes that as long as a trainer submits some training objectives (even if they are not all addressed in training), the auditors will be satisfied. Trainers are not required to take attendance at training and it is known that participants often “sign in" for staff who are not at training.
Training and development professionals should accurately represent their credentials (experience, education, training, etc.) and areas of competence to others.
A trainer with a background in social work, family therapy, and family studies conducts a training session on family assessment methods. When a participant mistakenly refers to the trainer as a psychologist, the trainer carefully explains his credentials to the training group.
A trainer who has not been a field worker for many years represents himself as an expert on field work practices and implies that he personally used the practices that have been developed since he left the field.
Training and development professionals should establish appropriate boundaries between themselves and others so that working relationships are not confused with personal relationships.
A participant approaches a trainer to discuss a personal situation that is not related to work or the topic of training. The trainer is a licensed social worker and a certified family life educator and the participant feels that the trainer can provide “therapeutic" help. The trainer informs the participant that this is not appropriate and refers the participant to a counselor.
A training program is conducted for five weeks at an off-site hotel conference center. The primary trainer is with the participants during the entire training time. In addition, the trainer attends mealtimes with the participants and sleeps in the same hotel. The trainer attempts to develop a personal relationship with one of the participants. The trainer buys the participant an expensive personal gift and tells the participant that he is attracted to her.
The Child and Youth Care Professional and
Human Services Training and Development
Training and development practice in human services areas such as child and youth care has commonalities with training and development/human resource development in the private business sector. Much of our knowledge base in the training and development area has been borrowed or adapted from the human resource development field (primarily dominated by business concerns). The human resource development field has several well-established scholarly journals including Human Resource Development Quarterly, Human Resource Development International, and Advances in Developing Human Resources. Other related journals include The OD Journal, International Training and Development Journal, Adult Education Quarterly, and Performance Improvement Quarterly. Several other training and development magazines and newsletters as well as a variety of books exist. Much of what we know about needs assessment, training objectives, curriculum development, implementation of training (including presentation skills), transfer of learning, and training evaluation has built upon or been adapted from these sources.
While there are similarities between the training and development functions in business and human services such as child and youth care, there are also many distinctly different issues that human services training and development practitioners encounter. For example, few business trainers have had to deal with sensitive issues such as sexual abuse or suicide in training. The previously mentioned ethical standard that training and development professionals incorporate strategies and/or content to facilitate cultural competence in all training would not be as easily embraced in the private sector.
The child and youth care profession's ethical standards are crucial to child and youth care practice and must be integrated into all child and youth care training. This is another aspect that seems to differentiate what we do from training in the business sector. The knowledge base in human services training and development (HSTD) areas such as child and youth care needs must continue to grow. Currently, the HSTD field appears to be limited to just a few journals such as Journal of Social Work Education (includes training and development articles), Professional Development: The International Journal of Continuing Social Work Education, and NSDTA’s journal Training and Development in Human Services. HSTD articles continue to be published in journals such as Child and Youth Care Forum, Journal of Child and Youth Care Work, and Children and Youth Services Review. The Protecting Children journal recently devoted a special issue on training and development issues. In addition a variety of training and development newsletters exist such as the Protection Connection by the Protective Services Training Institute of Texas and Common Ground by the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program. CYC-net, an international website for child and youth care professionals, devotes a special section to training in its online monthly magazine (CYC-Online). Several conference proceedings have also contributed to the knowledge base. The Proceedings of the National Human Services Training Evaluation Symposium has provided valuable information regarding HSTD research and evaluation and The International Child and Youth Care Conference includes an Educator and Trainer Day within the conference agenda.
As the knowledge base in HSTD areas such as child and youth care continues to grow, a major ethical/professional responsibility of the HSTD practitioner is to incorporate this knowledge into their training and development activities.