Challenges frequently faced by social workers

Ethical dilemmas are challenges frequently faced by social workers in all areas of practice. A dilemma is present when there are competing ethical obligations.


Reply to the dilemmas your instructor posts:

  1. Identify the conflict. What are the competing values, goals or ethics presented?
  2. Identify at least one relevant principle from the NASW Code of Ethics
  3. Discuss how you would engage in ethical decision-making. What would you do?


Your replies should be well thought out and grounded in principles of social work practice and ethics. You should make reference to the NASW Code of Ethics and any other relevant scholarly sources.

Ethical Dilemma #1

You, a social worker of Mexican-American descent, are working with a large family who just immigrated from Mexico. The family has recently experienced the loss of an infant. You feel you are having trouble establishing trust. On a home visit, the family invites you to sit down to a meal with them.

Ethical Dilemma #2

You are a relatively new social worker in a child welfare agency. You have bonded with a co-worker and find that you work very well together as a team. Your co-worker is a great support to you in your new role. You sometimes go for drinks after work to decompress. One night, your co-worker discloses she is going on a date with the father of a child on her caseload. She asks you to keep it a secret because she plans to close the case in a few weeks.

Ethical Dilemma #3

You are working with a teenage client. Your agency encourages social workers to maintain confidentiality with their clients (even though they are minors), giving limited information to parents unless there is risk of self-injury or harm to others. Your client discloses that she is engaging in sexual acts with same-age peers in exchange for money and gifts. She emphasizes the importance of trust within your relationship and her ability to “tell you anything.”

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