Right to Self Determination

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    Emma Kearney
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    You are an intake social worker with child welfare and have just received a referral. The file is for Lisa (a pseudonym), a 24 year-old woman. She is the mother of two young children, ages 2 and 4. Lisa is no longer with the biological father of the children, but is now dating an individual named Frank. The referral came in last night from the police as there was a domestic incident at the home of Frank and Lisa. Police responded as a neighbor called to report shouting and other loud sounds in the middle of the night. Police found Frank pushing, shoving, and hitting Lisa when they arrived. The youngest child was asleep but the older child had woken up and witnessed the dispute. Frank was arrested but released the next day. After your initial meeting with Lisa she has stated she feels strongly about staying in a relationship with Frank. She reveals that she and her children have been living in Frank’s home and he is their main source of income. She states that Frank has a temper but they get along most of the time and she does not feel she would be better off if they separated. She said being with Frank allows her to stay home and care for her children while still living comfortably and securely.

    1. What are the ethical issues to consider in this case?

    2. Whose best interest is it important to consider in this situation?

    3. Do you feel it is possible to consider both the best interests of the children and Lisa’s right to self-determination?

    4. What would you say to Lisa regarding her desire to stay with Frank? Would you support Lisa’s wishes?

    5. What are some of the potential risks involved with Lisa and Frank staying together? What are some of the potential benefits? What would your action plan be for this case?

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