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Ethical Principles and Best Practice Guidelines for APS

Adult Protective Services (APS) strive to insure the safety and well-being of elders and adults with disabilities who are in danger of being mistreated or neglected, are unable to take care of themselves or protect themselves from harm, and have no one to assist them.

Guiding Value: Every action taken by Adult Protective Services must balance the duty to protect the safety of the vulnerable adult with the adult’s right to self-determination.

Secondary Value: Older people and people with disabilities who are victims of abuse, exploitation or neglect should be treated with honesty, caring and respect.

Ethical Principles

  • Adults have the right to be safe.
  • Adults retain all their civil and constitutional rights, i.e., the right to live their lives as they wish, manage their own finances, enter into contracts, marry, etc. unless a court adjudicates otherwise.
  • Adults have the right to make decisions that do not conform with societal norms as long as these decisions do not harm others.
  • Adults are presumed to have decision-making capacity unless a court adjudicates otherwise.
  • Adults have the right to accept or refuse services.

Best Practices Guidelines

  • Recognize that the interests of the adult are the first concern of any intervention.
  • Avoid imposing personal values on others.
  • Seek informed consent from the adult before providing services.
  • Respect the adult’s right to keep personal information confidential.
  • Recognize individual differences such as cultural, historical and personal values.
  • Honor the right of adults to receive information about their choices and options in a form or manner that they can understand.
  • To the best of one’s ability, involve the adult as much as possible in developing the service plan.
  • Focus on case planning that maximizes the vulnerable adult’s independence and choice to the extent possible based on the adult’s capacity.
  • Use the least restrictive services first—community based services rather than institutionally based services whenever possible.
  • Use family and informal support systems first as long as this is in the best interest of the adult.
  • Maintain clear and appropriate professional boundaries.
  • In the absence of an adult’s expressed wishes, support casework actions that are in the adult’s best interest.
  • Use substituted judgment in case planning when historical knowledge of the adult’s values is available.
  • Do no harm. Inadequate or inappropriate intervention may be worse than no intervention.

A National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) consensus statement.