• Lorena Lashway

     By Lorena Lashway, School of Social and Behavioral Sciences 

    As societies become more organized, we develop a complex system of social structures. Incorporating help to the needy into the social structure ensures that a community will remain stable by solidifying the foundation of community and mitigating the impact of social problems (Kuklinski, Briney, Hawkins, & Catalano, 2012). Communities that fail to meet the needs of the most vulnerable put themselves at risk of festering social problems that erode the social structure. In my work as clinical adviser of the mental health court, I see firsthand the positive impact of meeting the needs of the most vulnerable people in our community. When people are homeless, hungry, and hopeless, lack of insight and poor judgment leads to decisions that may victimize the innocent and ultimately erode the foundation of a health community. Formal help to the needy through the delivery of human services that are linked with the legal system weaves a thread of interdependence into the webbing of our community’s foundation that ensures the health of our thriving community.

    The nature and scope of the field of human services is traditionally varied due to its grassroots foundation. In recent decades, an attempt has been made to focus and streamline the base of knowledge in the field into a more usable and more standardized form (Gibbs, 2001). The age-old question of “nature versus nurture” comes to the forefront when we consider the overreaching goal of helping, in lieu of scientific research. The benefits of supporting human services with objective data include increased professional credibility that gleans cooperation from other professional fields. Specialty courts became popular nationwide in the early 2000s and have demonstrated their positive impact on communities through both quantitative and qualitative data.

    Research-based community advocacy has a positive effect on changes in social policy and programming. In order for this positive change to occur, the researchers must be aware of current policy and its effect on social problems. In turn, policy makers must use completed research that intelligently considers ways to define social needs and effective intervention. Both research and policy are a critical part of influencing positive social change (Howe, 2009).  Linking the legal system to the delivery of services to people who find themselves homeless, unemployed, involved in the legal system, and often suffering from mental illness is an effective stabilizing factor in our local community. Homeostasis is attained as organizational and social structures communicate to achieve equilibrium.  

    The ecological model is a strong foundation for human services and, specifically, human behavior in the social environment (Cox, 1992). The people in the person’s immediate surroundings have an impact on his or her development, but so do neighborhoods, the languages spoken, the political context, and institutional systems (schools, hospitals, religious institutions, etc.) (Howe, 2009). As we promote our effectiveness and streamline the communication of our knowledge base, we find that proving outcomes in the field feeds action research. Well-grounded theory helps us know what to look for in our observations, helps us to predict outcomes, and suggests helpful interventions that will bring positive change.

    The overall goal or vision of human services is to enhance human well-being with special focus on the vulnerable and oppressed (NASW, 2011). We work toward this goal by promoting the well-being of the entire society by building healthy communities.  The role of human services  in these interactions is to develop better adaptations for the person or group, and better environments for all. Linking our services to other formal social structures, such as the legal system, the education system, and health systems, combines resources to create a more efficient macro-system impact. Effectively linking our field to other professional fields weaves a thread of interdependence into the grid of our community’s foundation that ensures the health of our thriving community.




    Corby, Brian. (2006). Applying Research to Social Work. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com.library.capella.edu/lib/capella/docDetail.action?docID=10197037.

    Cox, C. (1992). Expanding Social Work’s Role in Home Care: An Ecological Perspective. Social Work, 37(2), 179–183. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

    Gibbs, A. (2001). The Changing Nature and Context of Social Work Research. British Journal of Social Work, 31(5), 687. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

    Howe, David. (2009).  A Brief Introduction to Social Work Theory. New York. Palgrave Macmillan.

    Kuklinski, M. R., Briney, J. S., Hawkins, J. D., & Catalano, R. F. (2012). Cost-benefit Analysis of Communities That Care Outcomes at Eighth Grade. Prevention Science, 13(2), 150–61. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11121-011-0259-9.

    NASW Code of Ethics. Retrieved from http://www.puc.edu/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/30097/NASW-Code-of-Ethics.pdf.

    Weil, Marie O. (1996). Community Building: Building Community Practice. Social Work, 41(5), 481. Retrieved March 7, 2011, from ProQuest Medical Library. (Document ID: 10282707).


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