Ethics in Relation to Friends

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This topic contains 15 replies, has 16 voices, and was last updated by  rose.mcparland 2 weeks, 4 days ago.

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  • #199

    hilaryc
    Participant

    As you, a casual support worker, are sitting in the office in a shelter for individuals living with an addiction, a client, Bill (a pseudonym) comes in to talk to you and your coworker. While you are talking to Bill, he quickly mentions that he was in a relationship with a worker at the organization a while back, after he had admitted to having personal information on staff and did not think of it as a bad thing. At this time, Bill was high on drugs and possibly had had a few alcoholic drinks as well. Bill gives details of the worker’s life (where they live, and other personal information), which seems to indicate that the story could be true. However, this worker who is accused of being in a relationship is not just a coworker, but also a very close friend of yours. You know that your client is known for being honest and you have developed a strong worker-client relationship with him over the past few years. As you question Bill, he does not leave the conversation but is hesitant to answer your questions and fears that he will be in trouble for revealing this information about your co-worker. It is clear that he is extremely uncomfortable discussing the situation. As you question him further, he says that the relationship was sexual, it involved another client as well, and that it ended some years back. Bill keeps saying how he does not want the staff member, whom he had had a sexual relationship with, to get in trouble. You tell him, that he is not in trouble; you just want to get as much information as you can. You and your coworker make sure that he understands that he had admitted to having a sexual relationship with a staff member and that you both have to take the information he has shared very seriously. After he leaves the office, he continues to call the office very upset and says that he does not want to be evicted from the shelter.

    In between the calls, you and your coworker discuss how you should deal with the situation. You do not want to break client—worker confidentiality, and you don’t want to tell on your friend. You and your coworker decide to call a full time worker and create a hypothetical situation to get their opinion. Finally, you decide that if the relationship never happened, your friend should be able to prove it false. You don’t want to break client confidentiality, however, a sexual relationship is a serious ethical offense. You both email your boss explaining the situation.

    Questions:
    1. How would you deal with this situation when taking into consideration client confidentiality?
    2. How would you deal with this situation while keeping in mind that it is your own friend that is being accused of having had a sexual relationship with your client?
    3. Does the fact that this is no longer occurring change what you would want to do about it?
    4. Does this client’s addiction influence the stance you would want to take -given that there could be questions of his credibility?
    5. How if at all does being a casual worker change what you would want to do or feel you could do?

    #200

    kaitlinsarah
    Participant

    Questions:
    1. How would you deal with this situation when taking into consideration client confidentiality?
    -I wonder what the organization’s policy is regarding client confidentiality? I would question if it would be considered to be breaching confidentiality if the issue was being dealt with internally by the organization? Also, we often consult with our supervisors regarding difficulties that come up with clients, and this is something I would definitely want guidance from a supervisor on how to proceed. I don’t feel that this would be a breach of confidentiality as information is often shared with supervisors. It would be important to follow the organizations policies for confidentiality.

    2. How would you deal with this situation while keeping in mind that it is your own friend that is being accused of having had a sexual relationship with your client?
    -I think that many people would want to ask their friend about this; I might feel like I was talking behind my friend’s back if I did not go to her directly with my concerns, however, in this case I do feel that this would be a breach of confidentiality and is better to be dealt with by supervisors. I might also feel guilty for potentially getting my friend into trouble at work. However, if the situation were reversed and I had done something that violated my code of ethics, I would not blame my friend for bringing this issue to my supervisor; the responsibility would be on me for doing what I did and it is important for me to have friends who would not be afraid to raise the issue. That being said, this is definitely a difficult situation for any friend to be in!

    3. Does the fact that this is no longer occurring change what you would want to do about it?
    -I believe that if all parties were involved with the organization at the time of the relationship, the fact that the relationship is no longer happening would not change how I would deal with this issue. Having a sexual relationship with a client is a pretty big violation of ethics, and needs to be addressed with the worker.

    4. Does this client’s addiction influence the stance you would want to take -given that there could be questions of his credibility?
    -I think that sometimes working in addictions we can become jaded when it comes to our clients. I worked in addictions for a few years and clients were often accused of lying and manipulating– and there are definitely times where this was happening, however there were workers who thought everything certain clients said were lies. I think it is important to remember our code of ethics in situations like these, and respect the inherent dignity and worth of persons. We can’t always assume a client is lying to us and when it comes to issues of ethics violations, it is important that we take what a client is telling us seriously and take a closer look.

    5. How if at all does being a casual worker change what you would want to do or feel you could do?
    I always find being a casual worker difficult. In my experiences when I have worked as a casual, I often feel like I don’t entirely know everything that is going on and is relevant at the organization, and it is definitely uncomfortable bringing up issues, especially such big ethical issues like these. I think that in the end I would do the same thing I would do if I was a fulltime worker, and that would be to go to the supervisor directly.

    #201

    katied
    Participant

    1. How would you deal with this situation when taking into consideration client confidentiality?
    For this situation I would look at the agencies policy regarding confidentiality. Although client/ worker confidentiality is key, it would be pertinent to bring up any concerns regarding questionable situations with a superior so they can be addressed to ensure safety for all parties involved. From my experience working in an agency consulting with a supervisor occurs on a regular basis, however this situation is complex, and involves many people. Although this is a difficult situation to unpack and understand exactly how to address it, it cannot be left undealt with.

    2. How would you deal with this situation while keeping in mind that it is your own friend that is being accused of having had a sexual relationship with your client?
    Although this situation deals directly with someone that “I” am close with, within a professional organization they would be considered a co-worker and should be interacted with on a professional level. When thinking about this situation my first instinct would be to go directly to my friend and ask if it is true, however that would most definitely break confidentiality with the client. I think that although we do create relationships within our work place everyone must be held to the same guidelines and standards. For me personally in a work place I would address it with the supervisor, and attempt to keep my work relationships and my personal outside of work relationships separate. Although this can be difficult and often the lines can be blurred with respects to this it is key for me personally to remember that you are working in a professional setting that is separate from your personal life. I think it is also key to remember that you also have rules and guidelines that must be followed, and you must also weigh the consequences of not bringing up a situation or not addressing a situation properly and the effect that can have on you as a professional. Not addressing the situation is a grave ethical trespass, something the worker who has the information must consider. In my view point when something of this nature is not addressed it creates a web of ethical miss happenings producing a cyclical cycle of reoccurring events, thus contributing to the confusion and seriousness of the situation.

    3. Does the fact that this is no longer occurring change what you would want to do about it?
    The fact that the relationship is not occurring anyone does not change my viewpoint on it. This situation is grave violation of ethical boundaries, and it must be addressed somehow. If the situation is not addressed it raises the chances that it could occur again. Although holding people accountable for their actions can sometimes seem oppressive it is important to remember that safety also plays a gigantic factor in any situation. Not only does this situation violate ethical boundaries of everyone involved it poses a sever safety issue for everyone as well. As mentioned above everyone must be held accountable so that situations like this do not occur anymore. It is important to remember that every aspect of this situation is now part of someone’s story, and it is viewed as very negative, it is key to make sure that a negative situation does not occur again so it does not become part of someone else’s story.

    4. Does this client’s addiction influence the stance you would want to take -given that there could be questions of his credibility?
    Credibility is often a key factor within any situation. Although sometimes workers are skeptical of their clients, and their ability to lie based on past experiences, I personally think all information must be taken seriously regardless of the workers point of view and past experiences with a client. Especially in a situation as grave as this one, if the information is not taken seriously based on the view of credibility towards the client and it ends up being true another issues arises. In my point of view all situations should be taken seriously and assessed in a serious manner.

    5. How if at all does being a casual worker change what you would want to do or feel you could do?
    In my point of view being a casual worker in a situation like this one is a very difficult position to be in. Often when you are a casual worker or are new to an organization it can be difficult to being a situation with a superior for fear of over stepping boundaries. However, as mentioned above the situation must be address and must be dealt with.

    #202

    katlynforbes
    Participant

    Thank you for sharing this case for discussion, it really made me think about how I would act in such a situation and additionally, why I would act that way. I was torn over multiple aspects of this case and had to deconstruct and reconstruct some of my initial reactions. I hope that the way in which I have articulated that I would react in this situation would be how I would actually react if ever in a similar situation however with more experience and education, my confidence in my answers should increase.

    1) How would you deal with this situation when taking into consideration client confidentiality?

    Taking into consideration client confidentiality, there are some steps that I would take to deal with this situation including reviewing the agencies policies and regulations regarding confidentiality, ethics etc. I would also seek the guidance of a supervisor or more senior colleague regarding how to proceed with the disclosure of such an ethical offense to ensure that I was properly handling the situation.

    Although this situation would likely place the worker in an uncomfortable position, it is important that it not go unacknowledged. It would be difficult on many levels because A) you have developed a trusting relationship with the client, and they have given you this information trusting that you wont do anything to hurt them or risk them being evicted from the shelter B) the person being accused of having a sexual relationship with your client is one of your close friends, making it a more personal issue for you C) You want to maintain and uphold the appropriate policies and procedures that are in place in the agency but they are sometimes hard to navigate, especially as a casual worker who does not have as much experience/knowledge as some other workers in the agency.

    That being said, not acknowledging this as an issue would likely have major consequences for multiple reasons and for various people including you, the agency, future clients etc.

    2) How would you deal with this situation while keeping in mind that it is your own friend that is being accused of having had a sexual relationship with your client?


    The fact that the person being accused of having a sexual relationship with a client is your close friend adds a whole other layer to the case. Personally, I highly value my friendships and pride myself on honesty within my relationships, making it even harder for me to imagine being in a situation where I was required to disclose information about someone I care for that may potentially damage their career, and/or our friendship.

    While it would be hard for me to not want to ask my friend about these accusations to get their side of the story and/or inform them that the client has shared the information, I would most likely first seek the advice and guidance of my supervisor. In doing so, I think that this would ensure that ethically things are dealt with as properly as possible and then take the necessary steps from there to ensure that the issue is fully dealt with and does not continue to occur. As mentioned above by Katie, it is important to try and separate your personal and professional relationships so that you are able to make the most appropriate professional choices ethically regardless of your personal relationship with the person. As future social workers, dilemmas such as this is a good example of something that may be difficult for us especially at the onset of our careers but with time, I think we will be able to perfect. Someone that is truly your friend, should understand that in a situation such as this, you would be acting professionally and ethically by disclosing the information given to you and not maliciously.

    3) Does the fact that this is no longer occurring change what you would want to do about it?


    The fact that the situation is not currently occurring does not change what I would do about it given the magnitude of the violation. Having personal relationships of any sort with clients outside of the work setting is strongly discouraged however especially so when the relationship becomes sexual. Even though all parties are not currently involved in the agency at the time of the disclosure, it is important to acknowledge the situation and correct it appropriately so as to make a proper example out of the situation and ensure that it does not occur again.

    Additionally, because this information has been disclosed to you, you are now part of the issue if you choose not to do something about it. If the client is disclosing this information to you, who knows whom else this information has been shared with and how large of an issue it may become. For example, other clients could find out about this situation and in turn, their own relationships with workers may be negatively affected.

    The safety of others should also be considered in your decision making process because if nothing is done to correct this behavior, similar situations may happen again, and you may become liable if it is found that you knew about this occurring and did not do anything to prevent it.

    4) Does this client’s addiction influence the stance you would want to take -given that there could be questions of his credibility?

    The credibility of the source is definitely something I intend to consider in all situations I encounter both personally and professionally. However, if I were in this situation I would still, as mentioned previously, seek the guidance of my superior even if the source was questionable as it is better to be safe than sorry. I would highlight in my discussion with my supervisor that the client has had addiction issues in the past and was perhaps under the influence when this information was disclosed. I hope that regardless of someone’s past, I will always take what they say to be true and apply the necessary steps to ensure that there is follow up in either finding the absolute truth and/or that action is taken to ensure that the situation, in this case, an inappropriate client/worker relationship, doesn’t occur again. This might become difficult when working with particular populations of people whom are known to inherently lie or make false accusations however I hope to be able to identify through experience when I believe their accusations are false, all while still taking the necessary precautions within the agency.

    5) How if at all does being a casual worker change what you would want to do or feel you could do?

    Being a casual worker would hopefully not but could possibly affect my ability to immediately react to the situation in the way that I would want to because I would likely feel less experienced or less knowledgeable than some of the other, more senior workers and thus would be hesitant to question things within the agency. I hope that I would still react in the same manner if I were a casual worker in this situation that I would if I were a full time worker however, there may unfortunately be more hesitancy in my actions. I hope that through more education and experience, my hesitancy will decrease and I can become more confident in my ability to intervene in situations regardless of my seniority in an agency.

    #203

    Rosathya
    Participant

    1) How would you deal with this situation when taking into consideration client confidentiality?
    When taking into consideration client confidentiality, it is important that an agencies policies are addressed. Agency policies are what holds a worker accountable for the well being of the client. Confidentiality in the social work profession is an important aspect of the profession. With that being said, confidentiality also has limits as well. When doing intakes for organizations for example, confidentiality, I believe should always be addressed and limitations for confidentiality should also be expressed to clients. This is done so in order to ensure the clients safety. I would deal with this situation by looking through agency policies, and the Canadian Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics (CASW). Value 5 of the CASW states that, “the general expectation that social workers will keep information confidential does not apply when disclosure is necessary to prevent serious, foreseeable and imminent harm to a client or others” (Canadian Association of Social Workers, 2005, p. 7). A lot of the times social workers are bound by confidentiality, but it is important to recognize that when a professional engages in an intimate relationship with a client this can cause serious damage to a client, the agency and clients that this professional may work with in the future.

    2. How would you deal with this situation while keeping in mind that it is your own friend that is being accused of having had a sexual relationship with your client?
    I would deal with this situation by doing exactly what the worker had done in that situation. First I would assertively ask Bill about the situation and continuously try to pry more information out of him in order to seek the truth. Secondly I would debrief, and discuss the situation with a supervisor or my boss. With that being said, by discussing the situation with another individual, it can create conflict due to confidentiality reasons, but as mentioned earlier by speaking to a co-worker about the situation, this can prevent more serious damage later on.
    I do not think it would be a smart idea to address the friend directly. Although this person is a good friend of yours, this is a matter that should be handled by the CASW, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) or those who have the ability to address the situation in an appropriate manner. Just in case this situation is proven to be true, you do not want to feel guilty about having done nothing or having not gone through the right process when handling the situation.

    3. Does the fact that this is no longer occurring change what you would want to do about it?
    No, it would not change what I would want to do about the situation. Although Bill had stated that this had occurred a while ago, it does not change the fact that it could have happened, and could still be happening today. In this situation we have to keep in mind that this individual could still be working with vulnerable individuals, possibly putting them at risk and could possibly still be working in an unethical manner.

    4. Does this client’s addiction influence the stance you would want to take -given that there could be questions of his credibility?
    Bill at the time was high on drugs, and possibly had had a few alcoholic beverages, and of course this has to be taken into consideration when determining if whether or not Bill is lying. In terms of questioning the credibility of the situation, it should not solely be based on whether Bill was high or not high. Other factors should be acknowledged when determining the credibility. Factors such as why the worker no longer works at the organization, the relationship Bill had with this individual (negative or positive), looking into case notes that this worker could have compiled regarding Bill and any other information that could prove the situation to be true or false. With a matter so serious, the client’s addiction influence would not influence my stance on the situation 100%, but of course it has to be taken into consideration.

    5. How if at all does being a casual worker change what you would want to do or feel you could do?
    Whether being a full time staffed individual at the organization, or a casual worker, the position of an individual should not come into play when a client expresses an unethical behavior by a professional. Being a casual worker is difficult because you may not understand 100% an agencies policy or protocol when a situation like Bill’s is brought to your attention, but I would not change how I would go about the situation. Although as a casual worker, I may feel like I am stepping on people’s toes, or jeopardizing an individual’s career, a client’s well being is more important. At the end of the day, I would not want to walk away feeling guilty for whether or not I had addressed the situation in an appropriate manner.

    Reference
    Canadian Association of Social Workers. (2005). Code of ethics. Retrieved from http://www.casw-acts.ca/en/what-social-work/casw-code-ethics

    #205

    mallorymac
    Participant

    1. How would you deal with this situation when taking into consideration client confidentiality?

    In considering client confidentiality I would first try to appease Bill that he will not be evicted from the shelter. Although Bill suggested that he did not want the staff member to get in trouble, I would feel ethically bound to bring the incident to my supervisor, as if this relationship is happening with Bill and another client, it needs to be investigated if other clients are being or have been involved as well. If possible, I would try to inform Bill in advance that I felt ethically and professionally bound to bring this information to the organization, and would ask if he would like to come with me, and would prefer I use a pseudonym for him and the other client (although I am not sure if this is possible).

    2. How would you deal with this situation while keeping in mind that it is your own friend that is being accused of having had a sexual relationship with your client?

    The fact that the worker who had the sexual relationship with Bill and another client is a friend adds an extra dilemma to this problem. I would like to say I would wait to see what my supervisor said, and get further information about what happened with Bill and the other client, but it would depend on how close I was with this friend, for how long I have known them, and whether I knew them prior to working at the shelter. Although allegations of sexual assault and such a violation of boundaries must be taken very seriously in having integrity in professional practice, I would want to consult my friend to get their position on what I heard, without mentioning client names. However, prior to doing this I would consult with the other colleague who know the story and my supervisor, and would brainstorm with them their ideas, and whether they thought this was a proper response. In ethical dilemmas like this I think collaboration is key, in attempt to find the least wrong, and least harmful way to deal with this issue for the clients, whilst also keeping an open mind in considering all possible plans of action.

    3. Does the fact that this is no longer occurring change what you would want to do about it?

    The fact that this is no longer occurring would not change what I want to do about this situation, as if this happened with Bill and another client there is a strong likelihood that this could currently be happening with other clients whilst this person is still employed. Also, like katlynforbes mentioned, since Bill came forward with the story between himself, another client, and a worker, I would now feel professionally and personally responsible to ensure that vulnerable populations are protected from within the agency, and that the agency as a whole is practicing ethically. In respecting the dignity and worth of all persons, it would be unjust to have this information and to do nothing about possible harm that has occurred to Bill, and thus is likely to be continuing with other clients.

    4. Does this client’s addiction influence the stance you would want to take -given that there could be questions of his credibility?

    The ethical principle of respecting the inherent dignity and worth of all persons involves accepting the value and truth of Bill’s word. It makes me slightly uncomfortable to say that I think that knowing a client is currently under the influence of drugs or alcohol or is often would affect my perception of their word as truth without another source of information. Although not always, at times substance and alcohol use can impede judgment and certain drugs can cause hallucinations, so the stance I would want to take is to collaborate with my work colleagues and supervisor to determine credibility and to see if there are other supportive sources of information. Although I would not automatically assume that Bill is lying or is not giving a full story, it is something I would keep in mind throughout the process.

    5. How if at all does being a casual worker change what you would want to do or feel you could do?

    Being a casual worker would change what I felt I could do in the situation, as I would feel that I had les power than full time workers. Also, without a secure contract I feel that I might be more at risk for loosing my job if the situation ends in bad press for the organization. Also, working part-time or casual in any setting often makes me feel that I do not have a full grasp of what is going on, and by bringing up issues with full-time workers I may be causing more issues by bringing up issues that are currently being worked on or have been resolved. However, because of possible grave consequences to this situation and the potential harm towards current clients, I would feel ethically and morally obligated to bring this situation to the attention of my supervisor in having integrity in my professional practice.

    #206

    gkokoska
    Participant

    1. How would you deal with this situation when taking into consideration client confidentiality?
    It is my understanding that client confidentiality needs to be maintained within an organization. As someone who also works in a shelter, we frequently discuss clients as staff. This occurs during shift briefing, case conferences, during training, or when the information is pertinent to the situation. The most important part of confidentiality is that other clients are not privy to sensitive information. Katilinsarah’s comment on this question resonated with me, referring to the policy would be my first step.
    2. How would you deal with this situation while keeping in mind that it is your friend that is being accused of having had a sexual relationship with your client?
    Understanding that these are serious allegations I would think it is important to understand the entire story. At this point, there are many gaps, such as was your friend a worker at the time of the incident, or perhaps there is a grievance between the worker and client that would lead to resentment.
    Most important for me would be getting the full story and that would mean having a conversation with my friend to gauge the seriousness of the situation. I suspect though this would be a violation of policy, I would not feel ok with blindsiding a friend with an unfounded claim.

    3. Does the fact that this is no longer occurring change what you would want to do about it?
    Before I could answer this question I would need to know if the friend was a worker at the time. If this was the case then I think it would still be important to bring this to the attention of the supervisor, however, if they were not working there at the time of occurrence then it would just need to be a disclosure of past relationship.
    4. Does this client’s addiction influence the stance you would want to take -given that there could be questions of his credibility?
    No, it does not. I think here i would need to suspend my judgment and look for the facts. Until I understood the full story as much as possible I could not decide a plan of action.

    5. How if at all does being a casual worker change what you would want to do or feel you could do?
    Being a causal employee now, I would find this situation difficult. However, if I were to find out that my friend did indeed have a relationship with a client while employed with the agency and did not come forward I would feel obliged to report the situation.
    Sometimes being a casual makes you feel like you have less of a say in how things are done. However, working in this situation now and having some questionable things happen during the time I was on shift I have found my voice in being honest about what has occurred. Especially if safety is concerned, in my experience any feedback or concerns I have had as a casual has been welcome and accepted. Being an employee even if it is casual means you do have a stake in the organization.

    #208

    LisaF
    Participant

    1. How would you deal with this situation when taking into consideration client confidentiality?

    The client is clearly uneasy with the information that he has just shared. He sounds afraid and seems to fear the implications for himself. Thus, it seems crucial that he is assured of confidentiality, and that the case is handled with his confidentiality in mind. I would probably approach my supervisor with a request for a private conversation.
    I would then explain to them that I had a sensitive incident to report but would like to first be assured of client confidentiality. I would then tell my supervisor exactly what had been said while also explaining his state when sharing with me.

    2. How would you deal with this situation while keeping in mind that it is your own friend that is being accused of having had a sexual relationship with your client?

    This bit was very difficult to digest at first. I do not like going behind people’s backs and my instinctive response is to speak to my friend first. However, upon reflection, I think that my doing so could compromise the situation and could negatively impact the client. If I try to think about what I would expect if I had engaged in a sexual relationship with my client, I would understand being reported without warning. In fact, her friend may have withheld the relationship from her because she did not want force an ethical dilemma on her. If it turns out that she did not do this, then that information would hopefully come to light quickly. I would then explain why I had not come to her first and hope that she would understand.

    3. Does the fact that this is no longer occurring change what you would want to do about it?

    To be honest, the time frame does result in me feeling tempted to remain quiet.
    It also leaves me feeling very tempted to withhold my friend’s name from any conversation that I may have with my supervisor.
    However, I cannot shake the nagging feeling that by keeping quiet I could be allowing this client to be taken advantage of again. Or, I could be enabling my friend to go on and engage in other sexual relationships with her clients that could result in even more damage.
    While I am not certain what I would do in the actual situation. I like to think that I would still speak to my supervisor about this.

    4. Does this client’s addiction influence the stance you would want to take -given that there could be questions of his credibility?

    I think that the fact that the client was under the influence of a substance when we spoke is something that needs to be taken into account and shared with my supervisor if I am to report the incident.
    I would have taken the client’s addiction into account if there was something to be gained by the client by sharing this information. However, he is only putting himself as risk by sharing this information. Therefore, his addiction would not influence my stance in this situation.

    5. How if at all does being a casual worker change what you would want to do or feel you could do?

    I think that this is a significant factor to this case. How well do I know the organizational culture? Do the employees stick together? Is there an “us vs them” mentality? Reporting this incident in some instances could detrimentally impact the client and result in me losing my job.
    My word may also not be as respected as a casual worker.
    For this reason, if I decided to go forward with reporting, I may want to write up a formal statement and date it to have as security in case the conversation with my supervisor does not go well.

    #209

    lobr1141
    Participant

    Client confidentiality is very important in social work, hence the reason it is one of the core values for social work practice. When the information received from a client is regarding a current employee it is more complex. Although no one is in any immediate danger and here is no emergency, this information could compromise the integrity of the organization. Workers having sexual relationships with their clients (past or present) is typically frowned upon. I would not want my friend to suffer any repercussions for her past actions if it was true, but at this time we are not sure if the claims are substantiated.

    In the organizations I have worked in it is acceptable, even encouraged, to speak to coworkers about individual cases. I would ask my friend if it was true and, if it was, then we would speak to our supervisor and explain the situation. If there was a past relationship and that was not a problem for the supervisor than that would be great, however if it was an issue maybe the worker or the client could be transferred to another shelter. The fact that it is no longer occurring does not change if it did happen at one time. The risk is that a relationship – even a past relationship – between a worker and client is a conflict of interest and can change the entire dynamic of a professional worker-client relationship.

    The client having an addiction is not really relevant. Technically, whether a person has a substance dependency or has never had one says little about their credibility. There is no direct cause and effect relationship that addiction means they should not be believed. However, we know that intoxication can have an effect on the brain in which people say and do things they do not mean, so if the person is highly intoxicated when making these claims then it should be factored in.

    A casual employee is at lowest level at an organization with little power or agency while a person in a managerial position may be able to exercise more discretion with how to approach it or what details they want to include. The approach to reporting it may be different but if it is something you are obligated to report then it does not matter the position of the worker. The policy and ethical requirements are the same regardless of frequency of employment.

    If it is not stated in the policy that these types of cases must be reported then the decision to speak to a supervisor or not really comes down to what value I place on the job. In my decision to mention anything to the supervisor I would need to consider if I was prepared to suffer repercussions, like losing my job, if anything happened. It could be a huge liability to the organization if anything bad was to occur. The client knows where the worker lives and personal information. For example, what if they got in a fight and he smashed the windows out of her house? If I had said something to the supervisor earlier maybe the client could have been transferred to another shelter and those events would not have transpired. If the supervisor knew that I knowingly withheld that information maybe I would lose my job. I would need to consider if my friendship or my job was more important.

    #210

    kforbes1
    Participant

    Interesting case example. I have not found myself in a similar situation so cannot speak from experience in my responses to the questions posed. I think that it is beneficial to complete these sorts of exercises so that when the time does come to make ethical decisions, we can be better prepared.

    1. How would you deal with this situation when taking into consideration client confidentiality?
    In my current workplace, we have a policy of “up not out”. The idea behind this is that we are able to consult with our boss on difficult matters without spreading gossip to our peers. In the case example provided, Bill has expressed that he doesn’t want to get in trouble and he doesn’t want the other worker to get in trouble. Although those are legitimate concerns, I do not think that that request holds more weight than the responsibility the worker has to report the abuse of power on behalf of their coworker. I think it is important that the worker who is hearing about the situation inform Bill about their duty to report at the time. Also, since Bill is under the influence and may not remember what he has reported the next day, I think it is important to follow up with him when he is sober to again address the situation.

    2. How would you deal with this situation while keeping in mind that it is your own friend that is being accused of having had a sexual relationship with your client?
    I think would first like to say that I have an issue with the languaging of this question. I think that using the phrase “being accused of having” is problematic. The wording suggests that their is doubt that Bill is telling the truth. I think that in a society where sexual assault survivors are blamed for what happens to them we must be careful in how we process, relay an label what they have come forward with. I think that an alternative way of getting at the same point would be to say “how would you deal with this situation while your friend is in the wrong?”.
    If it were my friend, I can imagine having a difficult time being objective. I would consult with the other worker who was present for the conversation and be upfront about the conflict of interest for me in addressing the situation. I would pass on all relevant information to my supervisor and would ask to not be included in any further decision making on the matter. I would not talk to my friend about it because I think that it would be portrayed as me tipping them off and giving them time to cover up what had happened. I might also ask my supervisor with hold my name when confronting my friend as a precaution.

    3. Does the fact that this is no longer occurring change what you would want to do about it?
    I think that maybe less safety planning would take place as a result of knowing it wasn’t continuing to happen however I think that that is the only thing that it changes in terms of my response. I would still report the information to my supervisor and ensure that the concerns were taken seriously. I believe that just because something happened in the past, doesn’t mean it cannot be addressed in the present.

    4. Does this client’s addiction influence the stance you would want to take -given that there could be questions of his credibility?
    The Jian Ghomeshi trial was ruled in his favour because the women he abused were considered to have questionable credibility. It was devastating in my opinion. I wonder why Bill felt he could share this information with workers when he was under the influence. I wonder what prevented him from coming forward sober. Bill could be lying but it is too big of a risk to assume that he is. This matter needs to be investigated regardless of his substance use. For all we know, maybe he is using more to cope with the sexual abuse suffered at the hands of the worker. Survivors need to be taken seriously. Period.

    5. How if at all does being a casual worker change what you would want to do or feel you could do?
    I think that being a casual worker might make me feel like I had less of a right to intervene because I wouldn’t be at the shelter as frequently as a full time worker. I don’t think that my course of action would change however because I feel strongly that this is an important thing to address. Agency policies need to be followed and ethics upheld.

    A few additional questions I thought of while reading this include:
    -What would change if you were working alone when Bill shared this information?
    -How might your approach change if this conversation happened in front of other people staying at the shelter that night?
    -Does it matter if the relationship was consensual?

    Any input would be appreciated!

    #212

    bctoczko
    Participant

    1.As a worker I would make my client’s confidentiality a priority in this situation. After I spoke with the full time worker about the hypothetical situation, I would gauge their response and move forward from there. I would consult with my supervisor with the same situation, without using names to keep the client’s information confidential. After I explained the full situation to my supervisor, without using names, I would then do what my supervisor suggested.

    2.Although I would be tempted to discuss the situation with my friend to see their point of view, I would not be able to do that and keep my client’s confidentiality at the same time. I would still go to my supervisor first and consult with them first, in order to maintain the agency’s policies surrounding confidentiality.

    3.It can be easy to turn a blind eye to something that does not involve you, or has happened in the past, but it still remains an important thing to report, as it was unethical. As Bill is the client he automatically becomes vulnerable to any individual who works with him and it becomes even more important to report it to avoid future incidences such as relationships. I would still consult with my supervisor to see what actions should take place.

    4.As I have worked with Bill for a long period of time and he is known for his honesty, his addiction would not influence his credibility in my opinion. It can be easy to stereotype someone who has an addiction, but this is where workers who have developed a good working relationship, need to advocate for their clients so that they never feel uncomfortable disclosing information.

    5.As a causal worker many people may feel that they do not have the right to bring forth information because they are not there every day. However, causal workers do the same training and follow the same guidelines as any fulltime worker, therefore should respond to a situation the same way as a fulltime worker.

    #214

    ml458516_b
    Participant

    1. How would you deal with this situation when taking into consideration client confidentiality?
    When considering matters of confidentiality, I would take into consideration chain of command and whether or not I felt my influence and personal relationship (friendship with co-worker) was guiding my response. In this instance, I would not have discussed this matter with another co-worker before speaking with my supervisor, due to the potential influence of my personal relationship with the co-worker in question. I would however, have spoken to my supervisor directly with my concerns, as I would hold some concerns around consent and the client’s past/present safety when interacting with the co-worker in question. Considering the client, I would provide assurances that whatever they have shared with me will not leave the room or be shared with anyone else, with the exception of the e.d. and/or supervisor as they are required to be made privy of any and all considerations to client safety. I would affirm the client willingness to share their story and share with them our mandate as worker’s to keep them safe while within the shelter and that includes from inside forces as well as outside, i.e, the worker in question.

    2. How would you deal with this situation while keeping in mind that it is your own friend that is being accused of having had a sexual relationship with your client?
    I would inform my supervisor of the potential influence that may be guiding my interactions, I would consult with them as to the best way to appropriately ensure client confidentiality and protections are in place. I would not speak directly to my friend in response to this disclosure as client safety and confidentiality holds priority over a personal relationship shared between co-workers.

    3. Does the fact that this is no longer occurring change what you would want to do about it?
    No. I would absolutely take this (in order of chain of command) to my direct supervisor, and speak directly to the disclosure that was given to me while on my shift. This disclosure holds specific concern because if the client-worker relationship is still ongoing with the two parties discussed, there are concerns over how the influence of this previous relationship has held power over the client.

    4. Does this client’s addiction influence the stance you would want to take -given that there could be questions of his credibility?
    Coming from a trauma-informed and a harm-reduction approach, I would take the client’s disclosure into account with the same amount of concern and consideration that I would from a client who did not have a history of substance and/or alcohol abuse. Perhaps, the client’s current use of substances and/or alcohol was a way of coping and mechanism for them to allow themselves to open up to someone with this disclosure. I do not believe credibility is required or needed to be provided when considering the power dynamics and intimate nature of the disclosure. The concern on my end as the worker, would be if consent was given and if/when it was were they sober?

    5. How if at all does being a casual worker change what you would want to do or feel you could do?
    Being a casual worker, would directly affect the progression and control I as the worker hold to be involved with the steps and measures taken to protect and ensure client safety, I would speak directly to my supervisor regardless with the trust they hold the power and consideration to take the disclosure with the same level and care that would have given if I was on the floor/in the shelter full-time.

    #226

    gatkinson
    Participant

    Questions:
    1. How would you deal with this situation when taking into consideration client confidentiality?

    In reading this, I wondered what the confidentiality protocol was for this shelter. Depending on the rules, the course of action for this incident could change. I feel it is important for the workers to remember that they are there in a professional context to serve the client, whether a conflicting development involves their friend or not. As someone who always tries to exercise due diligence, I would be most inclined to consult a supervisor and deal with the disclosure through them. However, having never been in this situation, it is hard to say. I hold my friends very dear to my heart, and I know in reality it would be very hard to report a friend.

    2. How would you deal with this situation while keeping in mind that it is your own friend that is being accused of having had a sexual relationship with your client?

    As mentioned in my previous response, I think it would be very hard to keep my professional hat on when someone I have a personal connection with is involved.At the end of the day, however, I am there to do a job, and part of my job is ensuring the safety, respect, and rights of my client.

    3. Does the fact that this is no longer occurring change what you would want to do about it?

    I don’t think it does, it is not like they were both outside of the shelter community when it happened… they were a client and a worker, and that constitutes a major boundary crossing. Whether in the past or the present, this issue still needs to be brought up with a supervisor and given the appropriate remedial action.

    4. Does this client’s addiction influence the stance you would want to take -given that there could be questions of his credibility?

    I think whether a client is intoxicated or not, a disclosure takes a great deal of courage to admit. Given that he was becoming so upset while discussing this topic, I may have let him go for the evening after reassuring him how seriously I take his concern and that we will discuss it in greater detail in the morning when he has had some rest and time to become more sober. It is worth noting that alcohol and drugs may be his way of coping with the weight this conflict has placed on him, and seeing him as lacking credibility because of intoxicants would be inappropriate.

    5. How if at all does being a casual worker change what you would want to do or feel you could do?

    Navigating this topic as a casual worker may be difficult if I were in this situation. I may feel like my job would be in jeopardy if I were to report this, but at the same time, unemployed or employed, I need to be able to live with myself from a personal, moral standpoint. Casual employee or not, someone has disclosed a serious incident to me, and as a worker (and a person of certain morals), I have a duty to report it.

    #228

    WayneRyanDalSLWK
    Participant

    1. How would you deal with this situation when taking into consideration client confidentiality?

    Like others have stated, I would review the organizations policy on confidentiality. In my experience working with agencies, colleagues will often discuss a case with other workers and supervisors. They are all bound by the same confidentiality agreement and what is said doesn’t leave the office. If this shelters policy on confidentiality allowed for you to have a conversation with your supervisor then I would. As it is is a potential serious ethical violation, it has to be addressed.

    2. How would you deal with this situation while keeping in mind that it is your own friend that is being accused of having had a sexual relationship with your client?

    Whether the worker is my friend or not shouldn’t matter in this situation. If it did indeed happen while your friend worked at the shelter and Bill was a client at the time then it is is a serious ethical violation. By not saying anything, you are saying it is ok for things like this to happen. I would bring it to the attention of my supervisor if I suspected it could be true and let my friend know the situation and that I have let the supervisor know.

    3. Does the fact that this is no longer occurring change what you would want to do about it?

    I would want to clarify first if the relationship occurred while Bill was a client at the shelter. If it didn’t then it wouldn’t be of a concern to me and I wouldn’t have done anything. However, if it did happen while Bill was a client and the friend was working there then I would still have to address the situation. Ethically, I couldn’t allow myself to stay silent if a colleague, friend or not, broke some of the core tenets of social work. If it did happen then how do I know it hasn’t happened again but with a different client? Maybe it is still ongoing now with a different client. If i knew about this and said nothing and it is revealed I knew about it and did nothing then there may be some serious consequences for myself too.

    4. Does this client’s addiction influence the stance you would want to take -given that there could be questions of his credibility?

    As a social worker, I am not in a position to question the credibility of every single client I have because they have an addiction. Until the client proves to me that they are not a credible person then I have to take them for their word. Living with an addiction is stigmatized enough, the last thing the client needs is to have everyone question everything they say.

    5. How if at all does being a casual worker change what you would want to do or feel you could do?

    As a casual worker, it may feel a bit difficult to bring up concerns you have. You may feel like you aren’t in the position of power to say or do anything. Maybe people won’t listen to you because you are ‘just a casual’. Maybe I will lose my job. That said, something as serious as this has to be brought up. Whether my concerns are addressed or not doesn’t matter. I have to do something. If it is revealed that I knew something and did nothing then I can guarantee I will be let go from my casual position. Ethically it is the right thing to do, to bring these concerns up. I also have the duty to report concerns like this.

    #236

    Forbes
    Participant

    This one is a tough one for me, so much to consider and think about!

    1. How would you deal with this situation when taking into consideration client confidentiality?

    This case is really about the clashing between client confidentiality and ethical responsibilities. On one hand, the client does not wish for this information to be used negatively in any way – however, you have a responsibility to report this information to your boss because it violates ethical practice.

    I believe this is one of the exceptions to client-worker confidentiality. At the end of the day, you cannot be having sexual relationships with clients and must report this information. I do not really like that this is true, but I would end up reporting it.

    Perhaps the worst part of this case is how the trust will be completely gone between you and Bill and will likely never trust you again. This could negatively impact his life and complicate his future relationship with social workers, which is a terrible aspect of our system.

    2. How would you deal with this situation while keeping in mind that it is your own friend that is being accused of having had a sexual relationship with your client?

    I would feel empathetic towards my friend in this situation. Since they engaged in this relationship, they must’ve known this may happen, and I would hope they would not be angry with me for reporting them. I really wish my boss would give them a second chance, because mistakes are made by all. As social workers, we tell our clients that we are not super heroes and that we cannot fix their problems for them – but this is easier said than done. We look at our colleagues as super heroes that should know better and be perfect in every sense of the job, given the intense and private nature of the work. We do not forgive each other like we do our clients, because the reality is we are held to a different standard by each other. I think this is because we live in a largely fear based society – if I don’t tell, I could lose MY job, the organization could get shut down, everyone could lose their career.. All valid concerns – but instead of that, why not consider: What if we gave each other a second chance?

    3. Does the fact that this is no longer occurring change what you would want to do about it?

    Absolutely! My friend and colleague did the ethical thing and ended it. This should count for something, since by ending it they must’ve acknowledged that it was wrong in some way, and probably feels much shame for this. As previously stated, I wish there was a way for all parties to come back for this. Perhaps a internal ethical policy, where some situations can be dealt with in a way that doesn’t involve your friend getting fired, especially if this was a one time mistake. That is not to say that people who make repeated (perceived) mistakes deserve punishment, more or less something to keep thinking about!

    4. Does this client’s addiction influence the stance you would want to take -given that there could be questions of his credibility?

    This was perhaps the most simple answer – no. Not everyone lies when using substances, and what the client says should be taken seriously regardless.

    5. How if at all does being a casual worker change what you would want to do or feel you could do?

    It can be quite intimidating being a casual worker in this situation. Chances are your co workers don’t know you as well, perhaps not as well as they know your friend, and could look at you as the reason their friend was fired/punished. Your boss could also not take what you say seriously, and run the risk of jeopardizing your job and career. If this is the first time you have approached your boss with a situation like this, you might not know how to handle it. You are likely not seeing them everyday and have not had a chance to form a work bond, and a situation like this could definitely affect how they view you – whether positively or negatively, depending on how you handle the situation.

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