Accreditation Corner : Ethical Practice

Web Posted July 2002

The 1st standard required by the Council on Accreditation (COA) concerns Ethical Practice – respecting the rights and dignity of the individual, families and groups it serves. While essential for best practice, it is especially important for a Public Agency such as ours that serves a diverse population, provides numerous services, and utilizes taxpayer monies. If we fail to treat our customers with respect and dignity, we have failed despite any good works we have accomplished.

Respecting customer rights and treating customers with dignity seems like natural, simple things we all do as part of being ethical professionals, public servants and good people. However, meeting this standard of accreditation is not as simple as being good people, and doing good things for our customers.

The Council on Accreditation identifies 39 specific tasks that an agency must meet to comply with the standard of respecting the rights of the customers we serve. First and foremost, an agency must inform their customers of their rights and responsibilities and provide them with sufficient information to make an informed decision. These rights and responsibilities need to be posted, distributed and available in the major languages of the active service population. In addition, rights and responsibilities must include, the basic expectations for use of the agency’s services, hours of operation and factors that would lead to discharge or termination. This standard also addresses the rights of an individual to refuse specific services or treatment and has written procedures to provide services to minors without parental consent.

The agency is responsible to clearly state its mission and define its service population in writing. This information needs to be provided to the stakeholders. In addition, the agency must provide policies that explain that the organization does not discriminate towards applicants for services. Since this agency offers numerous services with a variety of eligibility criteria, the specific criteria and admission procedures must be defined for each service.

Culturally competent practice is another standard that an organization must meet in order to be accredited. Policies and procedures need to describe how an agency recognizes and respects the cultural needs of the populations that it serves. In addition, organizations are responsible to address the communi- cation needs of its customers through translators, sign language or other assistance.

Specific standards provide protection to children and youth in out of home care to ensure that they can visit their family, receive visits and have telephone conversations as well as receive mail. In addition, religious beliefs need to be respected. In order to be accredited, an organization must address these issues.

FCDSS staff are aware of confidentiality and the need to respect the privacy of our customers. In order to meet Council on Accreditation standards on confidentiality and privacy, an organization must be protective and diligent about the disclosure of information, validity of requests for confidential information, as well as making certain that our customers sign specific written informed consent.

The Council on Accreditation, likewise, is very specific regarding access to case records. The Agency must follow all legal requirements as well as use our best professional judgement as to the best interest of the persons served. Our customers have the right to review their case records unless prohibited by law or determined to be harmful to the person served. In permitting review of case records, confidentiality of family members and others whose information may be contained in the record must be protected.

If the Agency participates in or permits research involving persons served, the Agency must ensure that privacy rights are protected, fully inform the person regarding the research and respect the persons right to refuse to participate.

Our customers have the right to grieve any action by the Agency and must be fully informed of their rights and procedures including timelines to follow in grievance resolution. Grievance procedures must provide a formal mechanism for expressing and resolving complaints and grievances, which are given to the customer at the time of application, upon request, or at the initiation of a grievance. The formal procedure must include an appeal process, provide for timely resolution and a written response to the aggrieved documented in the case record.

Our Agency has the responsibility to insure that service delivery is characterized by integrity in decision-making, freedom of choice for persons served and priority of professional responsibilities over personal interests. Agency staff must know and follow the codes of ethical conduct of their respective professions and know and follow written policy regarding conflicts of interest. The Agency must, in its daily operations, protect the health and safety of the persons and families it serves.

This first standard is the foundation of all that follows on our Agency’s journey toward accreditation. It is our Agency’s responsibility to respect the rights and dignity of the individuals, families, and groups we serve.