Child Welfare vs Substance Using Mother

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    You are an intake social worker with child welfare and have received a file with a priority of 21 days. You have met the identified client, Marg (a pseudonym). Marg who is a 30-year-old female lives alone and has sole custody of her children. She has three children. They are 10, 12, and 15 years of age. Marg is a repeated cocaine user. There was a referral received 10 days ago that Marg has been under the influence of cocaine in a child caring role. The referral could not provide a specific time or date that Marg has been under the influence in a child caring role. However, because Marg has a long history of child protection involvement, the supervisor decided this referral should be investigated. After meeting with Marg, the intake social worker advised that Marg is a frequent cocaine user but that she uses after the children have left for school and that she is no longer under the influence by the time the children return home from their after-school programs. Having never spoken to Marg, the supervisor believes that there should be drug testing. The supervisor also believes that during the intake investigation Marg should not be permitted to use any substances such as alcohol or drugs and the children should come into care due to her child protection history. The supervisor has asked you to call the biological father and inform him of the investigation. However, the supervisor is asking for you to decide the next investigative steps as you were the one who met with Marg.

    1.What are the ethical issues in this case?

    2.Do you think the children are at risk of abuse or neglect?

    3.Do you think asking Marg to stop her drug use during the investigation is against her right to self-determination?

    4.Do you believe the supervisor is acting in the best interest of the children?

    5.Do you think the intake worker is?

    6.What do you think the next investigative steps should be?

    7.What are the power issues in this case?



    Regarding the case I believe that it goes against the code of ethics whereas the information that is for the client is not meant to be disclosed until the client is addressed of this issue I think that they’re acting on this issue too soon. There is no proof that it happened or there is no clear evidence that it happened yet so they should act on this issue until there’s more to know about it and get in the father involved in trying to get custody of the children. Social worker would be disclosing information of the client towards the father of the children where the privacy should be kept confidential the information cannot be disclosed without permission in this case unless children are at risk of definite harm.
    In regards to the case there is another ethical dilemma where within the code of ethics it says that social workers should promote social fairness and equitable distribution of resources to reduce barriers and expand choices of all persons. Since she is oppressed based on being a substance user there is prejudice and discrimination against this person based on these notions of stereotyping that the client will not find help. In this case they jump into conclusion where the children are going to be placed in the fathers care without having more evidence on this issue so it possibly goes against pursuit of social justice.
    I would suggest that the client would be offered support like an immediate need support program or prevention safe place for the kids to stay in while she gets help. I would find the real reason why she did it. What is she going through? What can we do to prevent her from using? What supports can we offer her to help her with keeping custody of her kids?

    Power dynamics would be betterment the social worker and the oppression client. There are issues of regarding socioeconomic status. Being a woman, marginalized because they are categorized as substance users that can also cause prejudice and discrimination.

    Nova Scotia College of Social Work (2008, November 17). Code of ethics. NSCSW.


    1. The ethical issues in the case involve the supervisors bias and prejudgement about Marg’s substance use. The supervisor is displaying a bias about substance use by saying Marg should not be under the influence of substance during her meetings. This could present a challenge depending on the amount and frequency of use and could be dangerous if she started to go into withdrawal during the meeting. Also I think it is unethical to contact the father about the investigation prior to meeting with Marg to decide if the children are at risk or not.

    Based on the scenario it sounds like Marg is not under the influence of substances when in the presence of the children so this would not put them at risk for that reason. I think that the supervisor is working from the perspective of their children’s best interest, however a person’s intentions may not always match the outcome of the actions they take. it is important to consider the children’s safety as well as their connection with family. I think the intake social worker is acting in the best interest of the children because ever referral should be investigated if their is a possible risk to the children.

    I think the nest step would be to evaluate Marg’s substance use in a way that is not punitive or unethical that could cause her to go into withdrawal. If it turns out that Marg is under the influence of substances while in the presence of her children, the family should be given the opportunity to explore being placed with their father or in kinship care so that they can maintain family or social ties.

    The power issues in the care involve the supervisor and the social worker as the supervisor can include the decision making and actions of the intake worker. their is also a power imbalance between the social worker and Marg as the social worker can now determine if the children are safe in the home or not. There is also a power imbalance between the social worker and the children as they do not have much influence over the social workers decision making. The children do not have the power to choose to stay in the home or not.

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