First Advisor

Norman Wyers

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work




Paraprofessionals in social service -- Oregon



Physical Description

1 online resource (76 p.)


The concern in human services as to how to provide skilled manpower of sufficient training and in sufficient numbers to meet public demand has been a source of experimentation and controversy over the past decade. In recent years the rapid growth of social and mental health services has provided a multitude of programs and services for both the poor and non-poor. Traditional services of social welfare -- health care, education, housing and employment -- have been increasingly supplemented by new forms of services (e.g., community organization, youth work, recreation, and personal growth therapy), thus vastly expanding the numbers of actual and potential recipients of such services.

The changing nature of social services in recent years has stimulated within the helping professions serious discussion over the proper training and utilization of manpower. The new roles and functions that social workers and other professionals are entering into in order to effectively challenge old and new problems have led many in and out of the professions to call for the development of new levels and types of social service workers.

A major response to this call has been the development of a new type of worker, the paraprofessional. Known variously as non-professionals, indigenous workers, subprofessionals and the like, this new breed of worker is meant to fill the gap between low level entry positions in the human services and the more specialized components and job tasks in the field.

The development of the paraprofessional movement has sparked considerable controversy and study. Attempts to define and identify the precise elements involved in these new middle level positions -- the skill levels and task expectations of such positions -- and the social and political dynamics involved in their creation, have been primary focuses of such debate and study. Issues such as the relationship between paraprofessionals and professionals, the content and nature of paraprofessional training, the establishment of meaningful career ladders, and the relative effectiveness of these new workers have also invoked close scrutiny in the field.

To this point, the examination of such generic issues has suffered from considerable imbalance. In recent years, research into paraprofessionalism has tended to concentrate on the recruitment and training aspects. As such, information concerning where paraprofessionals are employed and what they do once in the field is sadly lacking.

This is an exploratory study intended to provide such a profile. It is meant to examine paraprofessional human service workers from three graduating classes of the Human Resources Technology program at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Oregon. The study is interested in examining the employment status of these workers, what roles and functions they serve in their agencies, the monetary and career mobility opportunities in those agencies, and the educational status and aspirations of the graduates. The study also intends to examine their personal views and experiences concerning issues of paraprofessionalism, professionalism, and their role as new workers in the human services.


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A practicum submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Social Work, Portland State University.

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