Elements of Ethical Decision Making

The mission of the profession as a whole is “to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty” (NASW Code of Ethics). The second section of the Code gives an overview of the purpose and functions and presents a guide for addressing ethical issues. This purpose is defined as determination of values, principles, and standards that can provide guidance to social workers in practice. The Code is meant to be used by “individuals, agencies, organization, and bodies (such as licensing and regulatory boards, profession liability insurance providers, courts of law, agency boards of directors, government agencies, and other professional groups) that choose to adopt it as a frame of reference” (NASW Code of Ethics). The third section, titled “Ethical Principles,” presents the six board principles that can be drawn from the six core values of the profession. These are:

Social workers’ primary goal is to help people in need and to address social problems. This principle is drawn from the value of service.

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Social workers challenge social injustice. This is drawn from the value of social justice.

Social workers respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person. The related core value is dignity and worth of person.

Social workers recognize the central importance of human relationships. this drawn from the core value of the importance of human relationships.

Social workers behave in a trustworthy manner. This principle is drawn form the value of integrity.

Social workers practice within their areas of competence and develop and enhance their professional expertise. This is drawn form the value of competence. (NASW Code of Ethics).

The fourth section of the Code provides specific standards, or action guides, in six areas of professional functioning. These are also used as a basis for adjudication, both public and self-regulatory, by defining accepted standards of behavior.  The six sections are listed as social workers’:

Ethical Responsibilities to Clients

Ethical Responsibilities to Colleagues

Ethical Responsibilities to Practice Settings

Ethical Responsibilities to Professionals

Ethical Responsibilities to the Social Work Profession

Ethical Responsibilities to the Broader Society

Case Study:

Based on the Code of Ethics and Ethical Decision Making Review this case and apply the Code of Ethics in Resolving the ethical dilemma. Summarize and propose what would be the right decisions for the social worker and/or intern in this case. Remember, your answer is based on your review of the Code of Ethics, your own interpretations and postulations, so everyone should have a different way of looking at it and no answer is concrete, right or wrong.  Minimum 400 word response.

The Dilemma

What follows is an ethical dilemma faced by a student intern who unintentionally acquires information about her client during the course of the field seminar. Read the following case and give some thought to the dimensions of the ethical dilemma and how you, as the social worker, would decide what action to take.

Julia is a social work intern placed at a local Family Services Agency. Over the course of the last six months, she has worked with Carla Rodriguez to reunify her with her three children, ages 11, 4, and 3. Carla (age 28) is the mother of Tatiana (age 11), Derrick (age 4), and Angel (age 3). The children were removed to foster care when charges of neglect were substantiated. Derrick and Angel were placed in separate foster homes, and Tatiana stayed with Carla’ sister. Carla’ drug addiction limited her ability to care for her children, who were found to be living in squalid conditions. While the children were in foster care, Carla made a concerted effort to have the children returned to her care. She entered and completed a drug treatment program, and claims now to be “completely drug free.” Carla entered similar programs twice before; this is the first time she completed a program. The children were reunified with their mother two months ago. Carla has been drug free for a number of months and is meeting the minimum standards of care for her children. Visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethics for more information

In the field internship seminar, social work interns were exchanging information about their cases. An intern placed in a local junior high school asked her peers for advice about the group she is running. Taking precautions to change the names and identifying details of the group members, the intern spoke about “Mary’” fears about her family being broken up again “after they just got back together.” Her mother isn’t “doin’ the bad drugs anymore, but she smokes pot with her boyfriend in the apartment.” “Mary” tells the group that her mother told her “not to say nothing to nobody” if she doesn’t want to split up the family. “Mary” doesn’t want her mother’ social worker to find out about the drug use.

Julia, the intern working at the Family Services site, realizes that the client being described is the daughter of her client, Carla. Carla has adamantly denied any drug use and always appears “straight” at the time of the agency visits. Julia has no firsthand evidence to suggest that Carla is using drugs. Julia wonders what to do with this information.

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