Steps in Making Ethical Decisions


Stepsin Making Ethical Decisions

  1. Specifically identify the problem or dilemma

InCase Study 7.2, Francine is a social worker that is impaired by theuse of alcohol and personal problems, in discharging her duties toclients. However, she is undergoing therapy so as to be in a positionto get over her problems. The problem concerns, whether Marcia (atrusted colleague) should report to the family agency they areworking for that Francine is not in a position to discharge herresponsibilities at the family agency due to impairment. Reportingthe matter to the agency is necessary because it would make theagency aware of the pending situation. The agency would like to haveits clients receive the best services, which implies that it wouldnot like to have a situation where a worker is not in a capacity tooffer services to the clients as desired. On the other hand, byMarcia reporting Francine’s case to the agency, Francine may getfired for not being in a capacity to satisfy the needs of clients amove that may affect her life since it would increase the number ofproblems she is currently having.

Thisissue is a combination of ethical and legal issue. It is ethicalbecause Francine is doing wrong by not offering the services thatclients are much in need of being a family agency, some clients maybe in dire need of the services, but failure of Francine to offer theservices to them may end up affecting their lives. Besides,Francine’s conduct is against the requirements of the licensingauthority. On the other hand, the problem entails a legal issuebecause failure of Marcia to disclose the condition of Francine tothe family agency may lead to her being sued by the agency upondiscovery that she knew Francine was despaired, but did not report.It is a legal responsibility of Marcia to report the impairment tothe licensing authority. This is in accordance to the provisions ofthe regulated social worker to report impairment evidence.

  1. Identify the potential issues involved

Thereare two major issues that emerge one of the issues concerns Marciahelping out her impaired colleague by not reporting the matter to anyprofessional body or to the family agency, but taking the necessaryactions within her means to help Francine. The other issue concernsMarcia not helping her colleague and reporting the matter to thefamily agency or a licensing authority.

  1. Identify the relevant ethical guidelines and principles that will help you make your decision

Ethicalguidelines and principles are critical in making decisions concerningFrancine. The Human Service Ethical Standards are the relevant inmaking the decisions concerning the Francine since the standardsrelate to the situation under consideration. Human Service EthicalStandards are usually applied when dealing with providers of socialservices such as care managers, social workers, counselors, andmental health workers (Kenyon,1999). In this case, the Human Service Ethical Standards can beapplied since it is clear that Francine and Marcia are socialworkers, working for a family agency. The Human Service EthicalStandard that should be used is Statement27,which indicates that human service professionals should seekconsultation when faced with legal, ethical issues, or dilemmas.Ethical Code for AODA counselors cannot be used in this case becauseit has not been made clear whether the family agency deals withalcohol and other drugs abuse if this was the case, then the EthicalCode for AODA counselors would be relevant to the situation.

  1. Obtain consultation or do further research regarding similar situations

Accordingto the National Association of Social Workers code of ethics, thereare provisions that can be applied to the case presented. From thecase presented, there is professional impairment on the side ofFrancine due to substance abuse and personal problems. According thecode of ethics as per the National Association of Social Workers, asocial worker that believes a colleague’s impairment meddles withthe effectiveness of the practice is supposed to take action throughright channels established by an agency, NASW, licensing authoritiesand other professional organizations (Reamer,2006). Besides, Human Service Workers Code of Ethics also providesguidelines regarding how to deal with the situation involvingFrancine. According to the Human Service Workers Code of Ethics,social workers should consider client service as a primary duty andshould be above self interest. In case, a social worker does nottreat client service as being a primary duty, a social worker can beperceived to be unethical in the social work practice.

  1. Search and identify the laws in Wisconsin that might be relevant to your case. The laws are helpful in coming to your conclusion

InWisconsin, code of ethics as per the National Association of SocialWorkers Wisconsin chapter could be used in providing laws that arerelevant to the case. One of the law provided by the NASW Wisconsinchapter focuses on the conflict of interest. According to Standard1.06of the NASW, social workers need to be alert so as to avoid conflictsof interest, which may make the interests of clients secondary ratherthan primary. The law also provides that a social worker should takereasonable steps in resolving issues that may interfere with theprimary interests of clients so as to protect the interests ofclients. NASW Wisconsin chapter also provides a law concerningimpairment of colleagues. According to the Standard2.09of NASW, social workers that have knowledge concerning a colleague’simpairment emanating from substance abuse, psychological distress, orpersonal problems that interferes with the effectiveness of thesocial work practice should consult with the colleague in order toassist the colleague in case it is feasible (Reamer,2006). On the other hand, in case a social worker believes that theimpairment of a colleague is likely to interfere with theeffectiveness of the social work practice and the steps that thecolleague has taken are not sufficient to address the impairment,then the social worker has a responsibility of taking action throughthe right channels developed by regulatory bodies, NASW, agencies,employers, and other professional bodies.

  1. Identify all the possible courses of action and enumerate the possible consequences of each

Onecourse of action that may be taken by Marcia is to report theprofessional impairment of Francine to the family agency. This willhave various consequences one of the consequences of this course ofaction would be the sacking of Francine upon receiving the report,the family agency would investigate the truth of the matter anddismiss Francine from work in case investigations show that thereported matter has truth in it. Dismissal from work would be becauseFrancine would be termed unfit for the social work practice since sheis not in a position to attend to the clients’ needs, which impliesthat she views clients’ needs as secondary rather than primary.Upon being dismissed from work, Francine may suffer morepsychologically due to economic hardships that she would be exposedto. Dismissal from work would add to the personal problems shealready has. The increase in the personal problem may lead toFrancine increasing the level of substance use as she tries to avoidthinking about her problems (Dolgoffet al, 2009). Also, upon being reported by Marcia, the family agencymay investigate the claims and issue a warning to Francine. Issuing awarning to Francine would have a impact of making Francine becomemore serious with clients the agency may offer some time to Francineso as to help her cope with the problems she is facing throughregular therapy sessions.

Anothercourse of action that may be taken would be failing to report thematter to the agency. Failure of reporting the matter to the familyagency would lead to parents and children not being served at all orbeing served unsatisfactorily. This is because Francine wouldcontinue attending therapy to solve her problems, while clients losethe services of the social worker. This may have a consequence ofaffecting the credibility of the family agency because clients wouldbe disappointed by the services that they receive from the familyagency due to professional impairment of Francine. In case Marciadoes not report the matter and the agency discovers that she alreadyknew everything concerning the impairment of Francine, she may bedismissed from work for not following code of ethics. Besides,another course of action entails Marcia looking for other ways tohelp Francine address her problems faster and in a better manner.This will have an effect of making Francine get better faster andembark on her duties a move that would help her serve clients in abetter way. For instance, Marcia may support Francine by helpingserve her clients as she goes for therapy.

  1. Describe what you have determined to be the best course of action and your reasoning behind that decision

Thebest course of action would be failing to report the matter to thefamily agency and looking for ways that would support Francine ingetting over her problems quickly. This would be the best course ofaction since it is supported by the NASW code of ethics (Standard2.09 b).According to NASW code of ethics Standard2.09 a,social workers that have knowledge concerning a colleague’simpairment emanating from substance abuse, psychological distress, orpersonal problems that interferes with the effectiveness of thesocial work practice should consult with the colleague in order toassist the colleague in case it is feasible (Reamer,2006). From the case, it is evident that Francine is more thanwilling to continue with her therapy in order to get over herproblems a move that will make her capable of serving clients. Thisimplies that it is feasible to support the colleague in getting overher problems since she will only take some time in completing hertherapy. Therefore, there is no need of reporting the matter to theagency or any licensing body. Although according to the provisions ofHuman Service Ethical Standards, serving clients should be a primaryrole of a social worker, Francine would need some time in order tofinish her therapy in order to be in a position to serve clientsbetter.


Dolgoff,R., Loewenberg, F. M., &amp Harrington, D. (2009).&nbspEthicaldecisions for social work practice.Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.

Kenyon,P. (1999).&nbspWhatwould you do?: An ethical case workbook for human serviceprofessionals.Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Pub.

Neukrug,E. (2013).&nbspTheory,practice, and trends in human services: An introduction.Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning.

Reamer,F. G. (2006).&nbspEthicalstandards in social work: A review of the NASW code of ethics.Washington, DC: NASW Press.

Reamer,F. G. (2006).&nbspSocialwork values and ethics.New York: Columbia University Press.

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