Throughout our profession, thousands of men and women work with vulnerable families and children.
In the scope of delivering social services, we often hear stories that can “break one’s heart,” or cause one to be inadvertently “sympathetic vs.
From others, it may be suggested there are always persons in any given profession who will violate the code of conduct rules and standards, despite any degree of training, supervision, or administrative oversight. [email protected] Rose Handon, BSW, MSA, LSW, has served in the field of child welfare for more than 30 years.
As social workers, we have a responsibility to examine the issues of client relationships and ethical boundaries. Boundary issues in social work: Managing dual relationships. She is a current state government policy administrator, and is a doctoral student at Walden University, School of Public Policy and Administration.
There have been two distinct incidents in my career in which it was determined, following an internal investigation, that two different workers had grossly violated boundaries in the client/worker relationship.In child welfare, immediate supervisors must play a vital role in modeling, coaching, and engaging in frequent discussions with workers on topical issues of client engagement, rapport-building, and assurance of proper boundaries in the worker and client relationship.Social work schools, child welfare training, and other continuing education programs also have a responsibility in providing education and information on the management of client relationships and examination of ongoing ethical issues.Unfortunately, many professionals in our field have difficulties in the area of client rapport building.In an effort to meet the clients’ needs, workers may find themselves “befriending the client,” under the guise of helping.The following behavioral factors may warrant or signal violations in the worker/client relationship: Worker has given the client his/her personal e-mail, cell, home address or phone number, or may even disclose his/her My Space or Face Book account Worker and client communicate with each other via texting via cell on the worker’s personal and/or company cell phone Worker is warm-natured and enjoys physical connectedness with clients, such as hugging or embracing upon contact, kissing, rubbing the shoulder, hands, or face to provide comfort and support to the client Worker spends lengthy phone hours with the client during the work day or even on personal time Worker may tend to dress provocatively on days when scheduled to see the client(s) Worker tends to spend an inordinate amount of time with the client, both scheduled and unscheduled visits, in comparison to other clients Worker talks frequently about the client, and may even openly share how much he or she likes, fantasizes, or can relate to the client Worker may begin to spend frequent time with client at various restaurants, movie theaters, or other public places outside of the client’s home, or even at worker’s home, under the guise of a client visit Worker freely shares and discusses his/her own personal experiences with the client Worker spends his/her own personal funds to support clients’ needs, particularly if agency won’t pay for clients’ needs, while worker chooses to assume cost on his/her own Worker engages in the use of drugs and/or alcohol with the client Co-workers begin to talk about the worker and his/her relationship(s) with specific clients Client’s own family and/or personal friends begin to talk about the amount of time worker spends with the client, and may even share such information with the agency The above is not an exhaustive list, but signals that the worker’s involvement with the client warrants further probe and attention.If the supervisor has a suspicion or concern, it’s important to document and confer with others in authority.Inside our respective roles and responsibilities, to move a client forward, we must engage a client in the process of change.When working with clients, a major skill that social workers must utilize in facilitating the client’s growth or change process is to earn their trust, confidence, and respect.It is primarily a concern about boundary violations” (p. Boundaries are “the limits that allow for a safe connection based on the client’s needs” (Peterson, 1992, p. Yet, in retrospect, Reamer (2003) suggested that boundary violations and boundary crossings have to be examined in the context of the behavioral effects the behavior has caused for either the social worker or client.He posited a typology of five central themes in which boundary issues may arise: 1) intimate relationships, 2) pursuit of personal benefit, 3) emotional and dependency needs, 4) altruistic gestures, and 5) responses to unanticipated circumstances.