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To envisage a professional without a trained aide is as difficult as envisaging the successful provision of quality and universal mainstream human services that relies solely on professional expertise. Shortages of trained professionals and the increasingly exorbitant cost of the provision of essential services are two basic stimulating variables for the existence of paraprofessionals. Since these variables transcend geographical boundaries, the provision of quality essential human services such as health care and education will continue to heavily depend on the presence of paraprofessionals. The heterogeneity of fields and the diversity of tasks of professions themselves requires widespread paraprofessional assistance.
Definitively, a paraprofessional is a lay helper or rather an individual who has not undergone a professional training program. Since the 1960s War on Poverty, such lay helpers have always been involved in the provision of social services. Their growth is directly related to the rapid growth and expansion of the human service program. In many countries indigenous workers were employed to assist trained personnel in providing health care, mental care, education, juvenile corrections, welfare and law, childhood programs, and even community action programs. Initially it was believed that paraprofessionals helped increase effectiveness and efficiency of services since there presence enabled professionals to be free from tasks that could be performed with minimal training. With time the cost effectiveness of employing paraprofessionals was understood hence integrating them further into cost effective systems(Shonkoff & Meisels 440). This rationality was buttressed on the understanding that finally the employment of paraprofessionals could be employed as a sound strategy that was both in tandem with good [practice and economic development.
Virtually all professions have utilized paraprofessionals in the provision of essential human services. Historically,there are a number of factors that led to the relegation of some duties and responsibilities to a trained aide. Such factors have not changed and all professions continue to recognize the usefulness of these aids in everyday practice. Shortage of trained professionals has been the stimulant for the increase in paraprofessionals. Moreover, the number of professionals has not been able to match the level of expansion of professional services (Schindler & Brawley 22). This means that trained aids will continue to be the rule rather than the exception.
Finding professionals who are willing to work in environments that they consider to be unsafe with low wages and even fewer benefits is extremely difficult. The reluctance of professionals to offer professional services in rural and low income areas is a great challenge to service provision. This inadequacy has been behind the integration of paraprofessionals who are hired from the local environment, trained and launched on a career path that is not only economically beneficial to them but also to the service providing establishment(Shonkoff & Meisels 440).
Moreover, since these services are provided in the community, it is believed that praprofession acts as a bridge between the professionsls and the community at large. Cultural and social factors have a great influence in the quality of services. Paraprofessional are drawn from the local community because they have a better client understanding as they resemble their own experiences. They bridge the gap between the programs and the clients by using some shared cultural and social experiences. They fact that they may even share neighborhoods is a plus for servoice provision. Cultural familiarity is crucial for the undersatanding of behavioral cues, avoid violating norms, and frame program messages in a culturally and socially acceptable and understandable way. Unquestionably, it can be surmised that they act as the programs goodwill amabassadors and since they intentions are in congruence with those of their communities they advance the programs commitment to the overall well being of the community(Shonkoff & Meisels 441). The techniques they are trained to use do not distance themselves from the clients and therefore through a paraprofessioanal, a professional can establish rapport with a number of clients who may otherwise have been unapproachable.
The role of paraprofessionals in the education sector lies in the provision of a strong multidimensional support necessary for the students success. The history of teaching assistants trails back to the beginning of the teaching profession itself but the popularity only grew after World War II when there was an acute shortage of teachers. Over periods of time, paraprofessionals have ensured the provision of efficient and cost effective services in the school set up. Initially teaching assistants performed housekeeping, clerical and monitoring duties while teachers concentrated on instructional tasks. With the dawn of the 1960s and 70s, their roles were considerably expanded due to demographic pressures.
In the United States of America, federal legislations such as the enactment of the Title I, Education of the Handicapped Act and Bilingual Education Act increased specialization of paraprofessionals. The need for individualized teaching services for students with disabilities further expanded their integration into the education set up. With further enactments such as the Secondary Education Act and the requirement that parents become more involved in education will further expand the demand of paraprofessionals(Roles 1997). In addition to working with teachers, they are also involved as literacy coaches often assisting the youngest learners(Jay & Strong 111). Paraprofessionals provide an invaluable service to teachers and students. It is for this reason that they are required to possess basic skills, competencies and knowledge before they are admitted into employment. These skills, competencies and knowledge are further sharpened and enhanced in the course of employment through career advancement and professional development.
Just as analysis during the era of development of medicine necessitated the observation of the analytical differences that existed between scholarly and consulting professions so was the analysis of division of labor among various positions in the organization of the practice of medicine as a whole. The hospital situation represents one specific area where the role of the paraprofessional is of great benefit for the health outcome. Psychiatric units are especially heavily dependent on paraprofessionals since mental patient care requires that there exists continuous conversation between the patient and support staff. Officially sanctioned therapy sessions also have to be administered by the paraprofessionals(Thompson & Bruhn 39).
In public health establishment, the reliance on paraprofessional staff is heavy given the levels of funding for professional staff. In such establishments, paraprofessional staff deliver many components composited in the treatment program. In nursing, the aging baby boomer generation and the increasing longevity of life expectation has created more pressure on the already strained long term supportive health care services. Since the number of the aging population are expected to rapidly rise, the number of direct long term care providers is unlikely to meet the growing demand of long term health care services(Timofeeva 21). While pressures on the long term care infrastructure can be met by more funding, the deficiency in nursing professionals involved in direct long term care is acute and only paraprofessionals can play a central role in bridging this labor deficiency gap.
Ideally, trained aides carry the more concrete, routine oriented and resource related functions. Such functions are more concentrated at the grassroots level. This explains the overlap between them and the professionals who perform considerably more complicated functions that characteristically possess greater responsibility for administration, supervision, planning, training and research. Practice models must recognize these salient distinctions or there is bound to be limited uniformity in the integration of their functions or commitment to the main goals of the establishment(Schindler & Brawley 34). There have been cases where the relationship between the professional and the paraprofessional presents itself as constrained with the professionals accepting the importance of the later but with serious reservations. Some professional resist integrating with the paraprofessionals completely. Such resistances are common where the professionals feel that there is considerable infringement on the domain professional practice by the paraprofessional. In most instances, the relationship is discussed with great enthusiasm. It is in such scenarios that professional excellence overrides in the provision of services. Additionally, the effectiveness of the relationship in achieving better outcomes increases paraprofessional acceptance as they would be seen not to be infringing on the domain of professional practice.
The challenges that exist in advanceng paraprofessioanalism into a mainstream practice that operates in accordance to laid down rules and guidelines will not be long in coming. The importance of paraprofessioanals in ensuring that the goals and objectives of professional practice are advanced have been tested for decades and the results are nothing but favorable. Just as professional advancement wikll never cease so is its parallel and supportive arm of paraprofessioanalism. With time paraprofessioanals will undergo basic training not through the professionals but through certified programs offered in colleges and universities.