The National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs ("NATSAP") and the Independent Educational Consultants Association ("IECA") have conducted joint Ethics Committee meetings to formulate thorough and consistent ethical guidelines applicable to relationships between therapeutic schools and programs and educational consultants. The guidelines seek to define the proper boundaries of the relationship between programs and consultants. NATSAP and IECA continue to monitor this ethics issue individually and jointly to ensure that families can access specialized educational and therapeutic services for their children through transparent and reliable processes.
One of the hallmarks of the educational consultant profession is the obligation to exercise professional judgment in the best interests of children and their families. When a consultant stands to receive a financial benefit from a transaction, there is a significant risk that the pecuniary incentive will materially limit the consultant's commitment to the best interests of the child and family. As such, the anticipated receipt of a referral fee or other incentive could impair the free judgment of a referring party in deciding whether the services of an entity offering an incentive are most appropriate in light of the unique circumstances of the family requesting a referral.
Both NATSAP and IECA have established and informed their members that referral fees and other incentives, including gifts and trips, are inconsistent with their members' professional obligations.
Through ongoing monitoring of professional trends and communication with practitioners, NATSAP and IECA have encountered a small yet vocal movement to deem inconsistent with ethical principles the cross-referral, i.e., a consultant's recommendation of a professional who has previously recommended the consultant. The objection to the cross-referral is based largely on the notion that it constitutes a quid pro quo relationship through which each party is rewarded for its referral of the other.
In June 2007, NATSAP convened its 2007 Ethics Summit, during which NATSAP members studied the cross-referral issue and thoroughly reviewed the NATSAP Ethical Principles. NATSAP determined that its Ethical Principles, notably Principles 5, 9, and 11 (available at www.natsap.org/principles.asp
), adequately spurn quid pro quo relationships and, therefore, do not need to be amended to address the singular issue of the cross-referral.
As is consistent with precedent, NATSAP decided in June 2007 to review its Principles of Good Practice with the aim of providing further clarification on the cross-referral issue as a matter of "best practice." The 2007 Principles of Good Practice Summit will take place this September. NATSAP will issue a report to its members shortly thereafter as part of its ongoing efforts to promote professionalism in service to children and families.