The good work of helping those who are in need is never complete. While American society has produced great wealth and tremendous advances in health care, there remain many who struggle each and every day with poverty, illness, homelessness, and addiction. The good news is that there is an established network of organizations and funding intended to help these individuals and families navigate their environments and not only become self-sufficient but thriving!
Human services are strongly associated with non-profit and religious organizations that are greatly concerned with the well-being of the whole person. Typically, the term human services are used to refer to a multitude of disciplines that address everything from homelessness to addiction recovery. There are also numerous non-governmental organizations and state and federal agencies that work to provide human services.
Academia began to see a need for a new field of study in the early 1960s that would provide definition and clarity to the professional roles commonly associated with helping those in need. The idea was build upon the fields of nursing, education, social work, law, and medicine to create a synergy and efficiency with all of those disciplines working in concert with one another.
Human services are strongly associated with non-profit and religious organizations that are greatly concerned with the well-being of the whole person. Over time, these organizations have become more and more developed and find themselves threaded into the fabric of our society. Their work has become invaluable as millions of individuals and families rely on their help each and every day.
The terms human services and social work are often used interchangeably. They do share some similarities however there are some significant areas of focus that set them apart.
Both roles are focused on lifting up those who need help and giving them the tools to better their lives. Both roles seek to relieve barriers associated with financial stressors, illness, hunger, and homelessness. In essence, the overall goal of these two roles is one and the same.
Where they begin to diverge is in how they contribute to this goal. Social work is focused on working with specific, individual clients. Often, social workers are licensed and specially trained for teaching or research.
Human service professionals are often responsible for the more administrative and organizational roles in the non-profits and groups that support these activities. Individuals who specialize in human services are often in leadership positions and are responsible for equipping their staff to be successful in the field. Additionally, human service leaders are responsible for the viability of their organizations by way of finding and allocating funds, strategic planning, and maximizing efficiency.
The types of human services and positions within the field are as varied as the client base that is served. Human services workers often play support roles for doctors, psychologists, and social workers as they fill in gaps in client’s progress with counseling and support. Some examples of positions and types of work that are common in the human service field include:
The United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) is the agency of the government tasked with bettering the health and well-being of all Americans. This is a cabinet-level Federal agency that oversees a significant number of programs that Americans utilize each and every day. The federal-level health and human services department contributes to the state and local level health departments in two specific ways. First, they work to provide valuable research and provide high-level policy guidance. Secondly, they work to administer federal funds to state and local groups who are tasked with implementing the programs that ultimately impact the citizens they serve day today.
The funding that the DHS administers is a critical cog in the wheel of human service work. State and local organizations and agencies rely heavily on these resources to service their local populations.
There are well over 100,000 human services organizations in the United States that employ over 3 million professionals. These professionals work in a variety of human services organizations that help just about every group imaginable. Some of the most common types of human services organizations include:
Human service professionals are required to have a diverse and deep set of skills in order to be successful. These individuals are tasked with being able to see the human elements of a situation while also looking after the financial and long-term viability of a project or organization. The list of desirable qualities could be quite lengthy but here are some of the most important qualities that human service professionals should strive for:
Oversight and implementation of the various support organizations that work with the community and individuals are what human service management encompasses. Managing these diverse organizations requires an equally diverse skill set.
Human service managers are able to oversee complex organizations that are often the nexus of public policy, federal funding, and community ethics. Management positions in the field of human services range anywhere from case managers to human resource managers. While there is diversity in the types of management positions, all managers in this field must be empathetic and focused on helping the individuals and communities that their respective organizations seek to help.
Human service workers are the on-the-ground, in-person professionals who assist families, individuals, and communities in working through their problems with the ultimate goal of improving their lives. These professionals provide a litany of services including counseling for mental and physical problems, assistance with alcohol or substance abuse, conflict resolutions, and assisting immigrants with navigating life in a new environment.
At it’s core, human service is all about helping other people achieve the best quality of life they can.
Human service managers are always in demand. The need to help individuals with common struggles is a service that, unfortunately, is a constant. Becoming a human service manager requires specialized training in addition to social and human service education.
Universities and colleges offer a variety of programs that can prepare human service professionals for management careers. In addition to education, aspiring human service managers should spend as much time as possible shadowing those in the field so that they can learn what the day to expectations of the role is and how to navigate the complex field of state, local, and federal regulations.
Human service work is some of the most important work in our modern society. The betterment of individual and families’ lives depend on the services that these industry professional provide. They are highly trained and empathetic individuals and we are fortunate to have them working to help others.