How to resolve ethical dilemmas in social work practice

Written by lissaj
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Ethical dilemmas are a major part of social work, as each social worker and social work practice will encounter them several times a day. There are several ways to identify them and resolve them within the social work practice. It is important to find or make a code of ethics for your particular social work group, and then deal with ethical complications as they arise in terms of your own code of ethics.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Instructions

    Write a Code Of Ethics

  1. 1

    Write a code of ethics for your social work practice before you even get started. This will help you know what is right and what is wrong.

  2. 2

    Include statements in your code of ethics about what your social work agenda is---to help children and victims of domestic violence, to work with families who are poor, to help parents regain custody of their children or any number of statements about your agenda. You may have more than one, and you may have many.

  3. 3

    Write statements about the general ethics that your social work firm will live by. These might include never failing to report abuse when you notice it, always providing families with the truth as you understand it and always following the letter of your local law as closely as possible.

  4. 4

    Instruct all of your social work employees on the various facets of the code of ethics, and make sure that they understand what it means to follow that code.

    Deal with Dilemmas

  1. 1

    Understand what constitutes an ethical dilemma. An ethical dilemma in social work is any question or situation you encounter for which there are various paths, such as a situation in which a hard-working father is guilty of neglect of his children, but only because he is working many hours a day to provide for them. Instruct your social work staff to recognise an ethical dilemma where each choice they may make has implications.

  2. 2

    Write down the dilemma as clearly as possible.

  3. 3

    List each of the directions or choices you could make as a social worker to solve the ethical dilemma, such as, for the previous example, taking away the children, providing the father with government assistance, giving the father parenting classes to help him understand his children's needs or explaining to the father that if he continues to neglect his children he will lose them.

  4. 4

    Write down the implications of each of the choices you might make---including children being separated from their families, increased work hours or any other implication or consequence that might come up.

  5. 5

    Choose the best path of action depending on the implications and the choices you have. Keep in mind that many ethical dilemmas require action on several fronts at once---such as a warning and information about government aid. Follow your code of ethics as you make decisions about your choices. Also, follow the law when applicable.

Tips and warnings

  • Not all ethical dilemmas will be handled the same way for each case.

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