A Social Service Agency is responsible for planning, implementing, and operating social service programs in the community. The Social Service Agency provides human welfare and social work. Our team researched The Department of Human Services role of social services and used of mediation. The Department of Human Services is a large agency that helps millions of individuals daily. The mission of the Department of Human Services is to assist low-income individuals and families to maximize their potential for economic security and self-sufficiency (Department of Human Services, 2012).
Under the Department of Human Services, is Family Services? This department has numerous agencies that provide protection, intervention, and social services to meet individual needs (Department of Human Services, 2012). As a team, we will compare and contrast the roles of mediator and advocate by describing the power limitations of each role, discuss under what circumstances an advocate is used during mediation, and which role is most critical to problem solving. The team will discuss the mediator bias, limitations of the mediator, scope of power, conflict of interest, confidentiality, mediator neutrality and impartially. ~”The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”~(Mahatma Ghandi, 1869-1948). Power Limitations of Each Role
There are limits to everything, mediators and advocates are no exception to the rule. In the Family Services, the power limitations for both roles differ from one another. A mediator’s limitations are: only facilitating communication during a negotiation, possessing no final say in the ultimate decision of a dispute, no control over the content that will be discussed during a negotiation, not dictating any of the terms of the final settlement, and remaining impartial during the entire negotiation procedure.
The advocate’s power limitations consist of; having to negotiate with other advocates (e.g., the other parties divorce lawyer), having to face off powerful (experienced, wealthy, influential, knowledgeable) advocates, or if working with clients advocate are limited to how much and how rapidly an individual can intake new information before he or she can be able to stand for him or herself. Circumstances an advocate uses during mediation
In “Conflict resolution for the helping professions,” Barsky tells us that advocates can also participate during mediations (Barsky, 2007, p. 1). The mediator’s role is to facilitate a negotiation and to help facilitate the discussion among two parties, without becoming biased. However, an advocate is used during mediation when; two parties are facing one another during a negotiation and one is more powerful than the other, often times the disadvantaged party brings an advocate in the picture to represent them. A good example of this is; a custody battle where one parent has more money to afford a powerful high-profile attorney. The parent who is less fortune would most likely seek family services to assist in locating a pro bono counselor to aid him or her in the negotiation process. Which role is most critical to problem solving?
Both roles are very important during problem solving. However, in the Department of Human Services (family service), one role can become more critical than the other depending on the nature of the conflict or negotiation. If during a negotiation both parties are experiencing a hard time communicating, because of constant arguments that prevent the flow of a discussion, or if a deadlock is reached, the involvement of a mediator would be vital. Otherwise, there would be no progress in the negotiation because of the lack of structured communication between both parties. The role of advocate can also be very critical during problem solving because the advocate would represent a client during a dispute (or if time permits) work with a client beforehand and teach the individual how to develop valuable negotiation skills. Regarding which role is more critical, advocate or mediator? Well that will depend on the circumstances surrounding the negotiation. Mediator Bias
A mediator is a difficult job that has many challenges and duties. In Family Service, it can be difficult for a person, especially a mediator to be unbiased when being in a mediation session. Some difficult situations a mediator may encounter might be; different values among the participants, and also cultural differences that might be developed while creating connections with other ethnicity beliefs. The code of ethics suggests mediators should be independent, neutral, or impartial when assisting their client (Barsky, 2007). A mediator who is independence illustrates that he or she cannot have any involvement or connection with his or her party because the other party may conclude that the mediator can be biased. Others suggest that mediators be neutral, indicating that he or she is not biased toward any party by having no control and power in the outcome of the situation.
Mediators must let each side tell their side of the story by giving each party an equal opportunity by having an equal balance of bargaining power. Others suggest that mediators should be impartial implying not to have favoritism toward any party (Barsky, 2007). This permits all parties to have the opportunity to express him or herself by having the mediator assist all parties. At the same time it is difficult not to bias, because the job of the mediator is to help resolve a conflict indicating that he or she will have pre-existing biases. It is the mediator’s obligation to dismiss all sorts of biases when helping others in resolving their problems. Limitations of the Mediator
Mediators try to help their clients in resolving their disagreements by helping and assisting in speaking to other parties. The Family Service can act as a mediator but cannot make decisions for either party unless to help them find ideas, solutions, explain the problem, and to assist their clients in resolving his or her disputes. The Family Service (mediator) has limitations on what they can or cannot say to the other party. The agency cannot reveal private information about their client to the other parties unless the client indicates that they can. Also the mediator’s records cannot be shared with anyone else and must stay confidential. Scope of Power
Scope of power gives full understanding of power in mediation. Knowledge is power, and having numerous influences in the related field can help significantly throughout the process. There are several types of scope of power. Expert power is someone who has years of experience in the area and has become more skilled by it. Associational power is to have good relationships with other professionals who sustain power authority in legal methods. This gains a notable benefit because it provides second opinion when it is needed.
An additional form of power is, resource power gives a professional the power to resolve the conflict in exchange in value propositions; meaning monetary exchange. Procedural power gives power in managing decisions that have been final. In accordance with Barsky, having authority to change policies a mediator must have legitimate power to legislate policies of an organization (Barsky, 2007). Sanction power provides the authority to resolve and manage when there is threat to harm, giving satisfaction to choosing best interest. The best advice that an agency of advocacy is teaching others is the Personal power. Personal power gives others the knowledge of how he or she can advocate for him or herself. Conflict of Interest
Conflict of interest can arise when several opinions are placed in the table. Group advocacy can result in conflict of interest. Is very important to know how to manage a group discussion and know when to speak at appropriate time. Obtaining a facilitator during group discussion is important; this allows the discussions to be more control. Conflict of interest can result in negotiations in which parties or groups have the opposite point of view of the concept. According to Leviton and Greenstone, conflict of interest should always be revealed during negotiation (Leviton & Greenstone, 1997). Mediator Neutrality and Impartiality
It is imperative for an agency to remain neutral and impartial during a case as getting emotionally, physically, or personally involved with any case can cause the balance of power to shift as well as produce an unfair outcome for one or more parties involved. To be neutral means to not take a side or assist either party involved in a dispute; along the same lines, impartiality also means to remain unbiased and unprejudiced. This is the only way a fair and just resolution can be made during mediation, and both parties can be sure that they have not been influenced or swayed one way or another because of how a mediator may feel about a certain person or topic. Confidentiality
Keeping the details of a case private is essential to the success of mediation and to all parties involved, including the attorneys, clients, mediators, and the judicial system itself is important to the Department of Human Services. If people believe that their private information will not be kept secret by going through a mediator, people will stop using this process. There can be severe repercussions if personal information is made public, including backlash, media attention, revenge, and lack of cooperation from the community. Just as with the attorney-client privilege premise, people expect the same respect and confidentiality from the Department of Human Services (family service agencies) to disclose certain concerns, fears, and expectations of resolution.
As mentioned above, the Department of Human Services (family service agencies) sometimes act as mediators or advocates. The agency is set in place to provide services to vulnerable individuals who have no other means of surviving. The agency mission is to plan, implement, protect, intervene, and promote self-sufficiency. The agency has numerous of limitations as a mediator or advocate but still provides the best interest of the individual. The advocate uses mediation in circumstances in which individuals cannot come to a neutral agreement. Mediation and advocacy is very important to an individual. Mediation and advocacy provides individual with a voice that can be heard. As stated, both roles are critical because someone life depends on it. Yes, sometimes mediator bias, scope of power, conflict of interest, confidentially, mediator neutrality and impartially comes into play and plays a vital role. The agency tries its best to make sure these issues are not common used.
Barsky, A. E. (2007). Conflict resolution for the helping proffessions, second edition (2nd ed.). Retrievedfromhttps://ecamus.phoenix.edu/content/eBookLibrary2/content/eReader.aspx?assetMetaId=c. Department of Human Services (Family Services).
(2012). Retrieved from:
Leviton , S. C., & Greenstone, J. L. (1997). Elements of Mediation. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole
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