Considering my current experience and working knowledge of ethics my plan to address ethical dilemmas is based on the importance of fostering an individual’s autonomy and self-empowerment. Encouraging clients to take control over their own life, set goals, and make positive choices will create a shared responsibility for situations that are complex and not clearly defined in the Code of Ethics. As children grow in age and maturity so should their right to privacy. Recognizing their age-appropriate right to confidentiality will foster responsibility and a greater sense of self. I plan to use a collaborative approach that will allow my clients to become responsible for their own information and share it with any necessary parties as they are ready. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the law states that a parent who consents to a treatment on a minor’s behalf has the right to know the content of the child’s treatment.
While this is the written law, I believe it will be important to set clear expectations upfront with both the client and parent that will provide a structure for the purpose of establishing and respecting a therapeutic relationship. These expectations will take into account the age and maturity of the client as well as understanding the parent’s desire to be kept apprised of critical information. Discerning what qualifies as critical information will require personal growth and stretching my comfort with ambiguity. I function well with explicitness but understand that working in the grey is essential for social work practice. Keeping my personal value system out of the decision-making process and relying on resources such as the Code of Ethics and the Council on Social Work Education Core Competencies will aid in removing some of this discomfort.
If I have exhausted my own resources and I am still unable to resolve an ethical dilemma it will be my responsibility to reach out for counsel from my colleagues or supervisor. As identified in the Code of Ethics 2.05 (2017), social workers should seek the advice and expertise of competent colleagues. Consulting with another professional for clarity and guidance will provide accountability and be in the best interest of my client, my practice and the field of social work. Thinking about strategies to resolve ethical conflict I am struck by the magnitude of professional responsibility necessary to protect the welfare and well-being of clients, regardless of their age. It is this responsibility that drives the need for effective tools to rely on for ethical conflict resolution. One strategy that can be used is Kitchener’s model which is based on five moral principles. This litmus test” evaluates autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, justice, and fidelity.
Applying this strategy to the dilemma of breaching confidentiality, I would respect my clients level of independence, assess who would benefit from the action, reduce or eliminate any harm that may occur as a result and ensure that I am respecting the rights and dignity of my client. This will be done with empathy and compassion, taking into account the need for safety. A similar model I could draw from is the ETHIC Model of Decision Making. This strategy uses an unforgettable acronym for effective decision-making. Examine relevant values, Think about the NASW Code of Ethics, Hypothesize about possible decisions and their outcomes, Identify who and what is at risk, and Consult with your colleagues. This simplistic model provides solid reminders on how to use practical steps for resolving ethical conflicts.
The field of social work is actively involved in research and change; therefore, I will need to keep abreast of current trends and new information for competent practice. This will require continuing education and purposeful awareness of the changes in ethical standards. On a daily basis, individuals in our society choose to use some form of Global Positioning System (GPS) to determine their location and destination. Resources such as the NASW Code of Ethics, CSWE Core Competencies, and evidenced-based theories serve as the GPS for a skillful practice in the field of social work. The resolution of ethical conflicts can be achieved by regularly relying on these established standards and principles along with a professional judgment that is free of personal bias.