Social Work Case Studies Ethical Dilemmas

In fact, quite to the contrary, ethical practice at times is laborious and time-consuming. What is the proposed action to be taken which needs to be evaluated as ethical or unethical? However, this is at the very heart of the social worker's difficulty in sorting out any given service situation, for it is at this interface where what one can do and what one should do that ethics transcends practice and we encounter ethical dilemmas. What social workers do is based on values, and social work ethics are social work values in action. What are the social work values which are in conflict? What other values and/or moral philosophy pertains to the dilemma being considered? If it is primarily a clinical issue, the social worker needs to consider the ethical implications or ramifications of certain choices.

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Ethics in social work practice are social work values up close and personal; and while competent practice is efficient, ethical practice is obligatory. It is where there are two or more competing values that the social worker is obligated to proceed with a full "ethical analysis" using ethical principles, not clinical principles, to contend with the demands of reconciling the conflict.

But not all ethical practices are necessarily cost-effective or time efficient. National Association of Social Workers - Massachusetts Chapter 11 Beacon Street, Suite 510, Boston MA 02108 tel: (617)227-9635 fax: (617)227-9877 email: [email protected] 2017, NASW-MA.

In this example, an ethical dilemma exists in that both values, self-determination and confidentiality, cannot be equally and necessarily upheld. It is important to actually go through the exercise of writing out what the competing values are to make sure you are thinking through the situation rationally.

Herein lies the difficulty with how to resolve ethical dilemmas--how to contend with all the facets of one's ethical obligations in light of competing social work values. If there is only one value at stake then the social worker is obligated to actively support that social work value.

Social workers and mental health professionals must develop skills to balance their roles as “human service” workers and actors in the legal system.

Yet until they experience real-world situations, few have an opportunity to apply legal and ethical reasoning to the kinds of dilemmas faced in daily practice.

They may also involve social policy, research projects or the passage of federal or state laws that harm clients.

Other ethical dilemmas involve conflicts with colleagues.

Without legal training, it can be difficult to understand one's legal roles and obligations. Birnbaum is the 2016 member of the Royal Society of Canada, College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, the 2016 recipient of the Hugh Mellon Distinguished Research Award, and the 2014 recipient of the Stanley Cohen Distinguished Research Award (an interdisciplinary award from the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts).

Managing Ethical and Legal Dilemmas examines specific problem areas involving children, families, agencies, legislation and policy-making – brought to life by case studies and vignettes. M., is cross-appointed to Childhood Studies and Social Institutions & Social Work at King’s University College, Western, Ontario, where she teaches about children’s participation in the justice system and social work ethics and the law. Birnbaum has extensive clinical practice and research experience in working with children and families of separation and/or divorce. She was the president of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers for four years, the president of the Canadian Council of Social Work Regulators for two years, and the president of AFCC-Ontario from 2015 to 2016. Sigurdson, CD, CYW, CAdd, BSW, MSW, RSW, LLB, of the Ontario Bar, is an adjunct professor in the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University.


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