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Jenny Gage

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  • in reply to: Connections and Conflicts of Interest #451
    Jenny Gage

    1) What would you do in this situation?

    I personally like to avoid all conflicts of interest out of respect for the client. However, I know that may not always be an option. In this situation, it appears George’s case has already been assigned to another social worker within the agency. Although, the assigned social worker is having difficulty receiving any information from George it is their responsibility to follow through with the investigation. If the social worker is able to build a little rapport with George that may be helpful, but if there is a limited time (which there usually is) that may not be a possibility. The worker could also contact collaterals and speak with them about the family environment, of course, the family would provide consent to talk to collaterals and confidentiality would be respected when speaking to the contacts.

    The reality is that not all clients may have the ability to communicate due to age or level of functioning, or children may feel uncomfortable working with social workers. It is a learning experience for the social worker assigned to the file and may be difficult to work with these clients. However, if I were to talk to George I would be concerned that by knowing him previously I’d bring my own bias to the situation. Another concern I would have is if the allegations were deemed to be true I would worry that George would continue to only communicate to me and not corporate with other workers that may be assigned throughout his involvement with the agency.

    2) Who would you consult in this situation?
    In this situation, I would consult with my supervisor and would like to assume that my supervisor would agree this is a conflict of interest. However, if the supervisor believed that it was in Geroge’s best interest for me to speak with him I would respect their opinion and do so. If appropriate I would talk with the assigned worker and perhaps suggest some collateral contacts such as a teacher or doctor that they could ask the family to speak to.

    3. Which is more important in this case – the family’s privacy, or possible risks towards George?
    At this point, there are only allegations, and although they should be taken seriously so should the respect for the family’s privacy. I would not feel comfortable talking to George about the matter unless it was a very serious situation. It would be disrespectful to the family, I would bring in a bias, there is a chance George may not talk to me. In addition, I think it is important to have trust and believe the assigned social worker is competent and can find the means to complete the case without my involvement.

    4) In small or niche communities, where dual relationships are likely, how can social workers maintain professional boundaries without secluding themselves?

    In small communities, there is no doubt a challenge of being both professional and being part of a community. I believe that although we are professionals, we are also individuals outside of our careers with personal lives. I think in cases where there is likely going to be dual relationships it is important to establish boundaries immediately. This could include stating that I will not be able to talk about our professional interactions when I am not working. Or if I see you in the community I won’t say hi to you unless you acknowledge me.

    5) Would this situation change if the reason for George’s communication difficulties was a language barrier? For clients who belong to linguistic minorities, often the only people able to translate are those who are already friends or family of the client. How might this affect the intake process?

    I do not believe that my opinion would change if George had a language barrier and I could provide a translation. I do not believe the onus should be placed on the social worker to act as a translator especially if they know the family. I would have the expectation that the agency hires someone to translate or finds another social worker that may know the language and is not familiar with the family. I understand in smaller organizations hiring a translator may not be a possibility. However, it could also be a possibility to have a non-immediate family member or friend act as the translator to the assigned worker. If the family member was not part of the immediate family I would feel more comfortable, as the information shared has the potential to be less biased then an immediate family member involved in the investigation. Ultimately I think it is the assigned social worker’s task to explore all possibilities to communicate with George.

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