The Life Model of Social Work Practice 45 Students are likely to need help with understanding when the Code of Ethics itself is enough to guide their actions, and when they also may need to consult Dolgoff and his colleagues’ ethics screen, Reamer’s guidelines for the ethical use of technology, or both. The examples provided in the chapter are good jumping-off points for this discussion. Instructors can share examples from their own prac- tice, but they also should encourage students to identify any ethical challenges they face (or think they are facing, or will face) in their field practicum. Building upon our discussion of legal mandates and ethical responsibilities, instructors can pose hypothetical or actual case scenarios and ask students to decide upon an appropriate course of action. Examples that we have used to generate discussion include the following: 1. A client disclosed to the student worker that he had raped a previous girl- friend when she was intoxicated. The girlfriend did not report the rape. The student was very upset. Does she have a mandated responsibility to report this to the police? (She does not—unless the client’s disclosure about past behavior suggested that he intended to harm someone in the present or future, there is no duty to warn or protect, and thus no duty to report.) 2. A field instructor reported her client’s neglect of her children (the mother had left her two children home alone so she could go to work when the youngest, age 6, was ill and the oldest, age 8, stayed home to take care of his sibling). The field instructor did not inform the client that she was going to do this, nor did she inform her after the fact. The social work student accompanied the field instructor on a home visit to the client’s home, and the client spent most of the session expressing her anger, frustration, and fear that someone had “ratted her out.” The student felt very uncomfortable, knowing that it was the field instructor who had filed the report. She asked: was her field instructor’s behavior unethical? It was. (The field instructor does have a legal responsibil- ity to report the client’s neglect, but she also has an ethical responsibility to inform her client of this mandated responsibility before reporting.) 3. Dolgoff and colleagues provide a vignette of a 12-year-old sixth grader who is 10 weeks pregnant. The school nurse referred her to the social worker. The youngster said that she does not want an abortion and does not want her parents to know she is pregnant. Discuss with students the worker’s ethical dilemma: respect the child’s wishes for confidentiality, or respect the parents’ right to protect their daughter from potential health risks? Have students debate what should be done. Ask them to review the Code of Ethics to see if it provides guidance. (They will find no discussion that is directly applicable to this situation.) Next, have the students apply Dolgoff and colleagues’ Ethical Principles Screen to the case situation. (Principle 6 states that a social worker should not violate a person’s right to privacy and confidentiality without permission. Principle 3 emphasizes respect for an individual’s right to be self-ruling. These two principles support honoring the youngster’s decision
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