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Ethical and Legal Challenges in Working with Children and Families

February 7, 2019 0 Comment

All social workers have a responsibility to be familiar with the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics. Applying those obligations when providing services to children and families can be complicated by the age and capacities of your client.

In this Discussion, you analyze potential ethical and legal challenges social workers could face when serving children and families. Using one of the cases presented in the Learning Resources, offer suggestions about how you might respond to the ethical and legal challenges identified.


  • Describe the ways services for children and families      face unique ethical and legal challenges.
  • Using one of the case studies presented in this      course (see the Learning Resources), identify one legal and one ethical      challenge that could arise and explain how you would respond to each.

Case Study-Working with Children and Families: Case of the Patterson Family

Working with Children and Families: Case of the Patterson Family Samuel had just turned 6 and was in kindergarten when he was referred for school-based outpatient services. Samuel is an African-American male who was living in multiple locations, but primarily with his mother and younger brother in a downtown housing project. Samuel was intelligent and attended head start programs before kindergarten. However, since he had started kindergarten, his behavior in the classroom was out of control. Samuel had 3 to 4 major tantrums a week and multiple smaller tantrums every day. These tantrums included screaming, crying, throwing things, hitting others, and running away. Samuel was always either sad or angry, and he rarely ever appeared to be happy. Otherwise, Samuel was a healthy and active boy. Samuel’s parents were divorced a year before he started kindergarten, and since then, Samuel’s father’s involvement with him and his brother has been intermittent. Before his parents were divorced, there was frequent instances of domestic violence. Samuel was a witness to much of this violence, but neither Samuel nor his brother was ever harmed physically. Samuel was confused about his relationship with his dad because he wanted to spend time with him, but did not like the way his father treated his mother. Samuel was very attached to his mother and also had a difficult time when his brother was born. Samuel was almost 4 years old at the time. These two events occurred around the same time and immediately preceded the increase in number as well as severity of Samuel’s tantrums. Samuel’s mother is legally blind, and therefore, since she and her husband got divorced, Samuel and his brother spend a lot of time at many different places. Samuel’s © 2016 Laureate Education, Inc. 2 mother is reliant on her family to help with raising her sons and with many other daily tasks such as transportation and shopping. This inconsistency in caregiving added to Samuel’s emotional instability. Samuel was unable to verbalize his feelings or express them in positive ways. Samuel would become upset quickly, and that would lead to whining, shutting down, defiance, and tantrums. Samuel also quickly went from sad to angry and could be verbally and physically aggressive at those times. I began to work with the client in the school setting which is where the most severe tantrums seemed to occur, but it was evident that there needed to be more consistency within the home as well. Samuel was brilliant, interested in school, creative, and had a desire to “be good.” Samuel’s goals were to increase his ability to regulate his emotions and process his emotions related to witnessing domestic violence and the subsequent divorce of his parents. My first focus was on establishing positive therapeutic rapport with Samuel. Samuel did not trust many people at the school, and it was important to build that trust through consistent follow-through and positive engagement. Samuel responded well to the one-on-one attention and began to open up about his feelings of sadness and anger. Samuel also began to process the events of his past and his current living situation. It was also important to incorporate classroom interventions to help assimilate what Samuel was practicing during therapy sessions. I collaborated with Samuel’s classroom teacher to create some systems within the classroom. We created a behavior chart that rewarded Samuel for positive behavior within the classroom such as raising his hand, staying in his seat, and walking from one place to another with the class. We also created a calm-down corner in the room that included a bean bag chair, squishy © 2016 Laureate Education, Inc. 3 balls, Mandala coloring sheets, and a mind jar for meditation. The calm-down corner became an area that any child in the classroom could use and benefited the entire class. I also collaborated with the school counselor to create an emotional regulation group for the school that utilized the Zones of Regulation curriculum. Samuel was a part of the kindergarten and first-grade group. The Zones curriculum provided a common language to use when discussing emotions and responses in situations as well as during modeling situation. This common language was provided for all the school staff that interacted with the group members as well as all parents and caregivers. The Zones of Regulation provides a system for sorting emotions, identifying appropriate situations for all emotions, coping skills, appropriate responses to problems, and connecting how individual behaviors affect others. Samuel struggled to be able to maintain his emotions during the group, but even with the behavioral difficulties and outbursts, he was able to process a lot of the information. Samuel responded well to the interventions put in place in the school setting. Since starting the first grade, he has had one major tantrum, but was able to calm himself and rejoin the class. Samuel reports that he is happy more days than he is sad. He still gets angry and can be mean to his peers when this occurs. Samuel’s goals going forward are to improve his negative attitude and continue to process his emotions surrounding the domestic violence and separation of his parents. In going forward, there also needs to be an increased focus on consistency in the home setting in providing appropriate behavior plans and communication. Samuel’s biggest hurdle at this time is the negative environment he encounters from living in the projects and the attitude that © 2016 Laureate Education, Inc. 4 he needs to fight to be a part of it. Samuel is intelligent, and if he can continue to work toward his goals, he can continue to see success

Please use this as one reference

Hamilton, T. A. D., & Bundy-Fazioli, K. (2013). Exploring the complexities of child neglect: Ethical issues of child welfare practice. Journal of Social Work Values & Ethics, 10(2), 14–24.

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