Last month we talked about Social Work as a profession and academic discipline that improves the quality of life and well-being of individuals, groups, and communities by direct practice, policy development, organizing communities and outreach, and crisis intervention. Social Workers undergo demanding educational requirements, formal and robust training, and adherence to governmental regulatory requirements, HIPAAand state licensing requirements. All of these complexities have raised liabilities for Social Workers.
Likewise, liability based lawsuits have become exponentially more frequent in our litigious society with more professions and specific occupations being exposed to tort liability. For example, inthere were almost no lawsuits ua6527 Social Workers. Now there are tens of thousands of lawsuits and claims filed every year in the U.
While good practice management and learning good practice techniques through participation in NASW Risk Management training are the best defense against liability lawsuits, Social Workers need good liability insurance coverage that they can depend on nevertheless. Today, liability lawsuits come in many forms. Western Litigation determined that the most frequent classes of lawsuits against Social Workers are:.
Potential liability is now a fact of Social Work practice regardless of venue. Malpractice is a deviation by omission or commission inaction or action from standards of professional care which the results in an injury.
For example, an action may be fraudulent billing or embezzlement, and an inaction may be failure to make a needed referral or inadvertent disclosure of confidential information either by the Social Worker or by a third party working for the Social Worker, such as a mover relocating patient files or a data server company that loses the patient records information or breaches the confidentiality of the information.
Intent does not matter when defining malpractice. Malpractice lawsuit plaintiffs file a lawsuit based on their claims that they sustained injuries from wrongful actions or inactions and seek compensation for damages. Whether or not a lawsuit has merit, there will be a legal defense expense to the Social Worker as the defendantsimply to answer the complaint, and that is where a good liability insurance policy or set of policies is critical.
The Legal vampire bible true blood is best written in contract form that defines the treatment scope and the relationship of the parties. This protects the Social Worker and establishes accepted deliverables.
A professional relationship must be created and maintained at all times. The obligation to adhere to a standard of care is an average standard, not the best standard. An average Social Worker meets the requirement in a reasonableness test.
It is a slippery concept because standards vary across venues and jurisdictions and change with court rulings, regulations, policy statements, research, and guidelines for the profession. Breach of duty can be a commission or omission. Something was either done wrong or not done that resulted in a deviation from the standard of practice that an average Social Worker provides.
This is where expert witness testimony and depositions surface when a standard of care is being determined.Although infrequent, social workers' misconduct and negligence can lead to lawsuits, licensing board complaints, and other disciplinary action.
Belinda was a clinical social worker in a prominent mental health center that serves adults, adolescents, and children. She was the clinical director of the center's alternative school, which serves adolescents with behavioral health challenges who have difficulty functioning in traditional schools. The program's staffers provide teens with counseling services as an adjunct to their classroom activities. Belinda, who is married and the mother of two young children, is currently on a leave of absence from her position due to "personal issues.
According to the complaint, which was filed by the teen's parents, Belinda developed an intimate relationship with her client. The relationship began with an exchange of suggestive and provocative text messages and evolved into caressing and a series of sexual encounters that took place in Belinda's home.Social services removed a child from innocent family but the appeal court served justice.
Through her attorney, Belinda admitted to the inappropriate relationship and volunteered to surrender her social work license. She hopes to negotiate a formal agreement with the licensing board that will allow her to seek reinstatement once she completes an extended period of therapy and ethics consultation.
Belinda also faces another challenge: The parents of her former client have named Belinda and her agency in a lawsuit that alleges that she engaged in malpractice and that both she and her agency are responsible for the harm her unethical conduct caused.
The detailed lawsuit claims that Belinda's former client has endured serious emotional injury that has interfered with his ability to finish high school and pursue gainful employment. This case is not hypothetical. It describes the life and career rupture of an actual social worker who, it turns out, was struggling with both clinical depression and a failing marriage.
The case exemplifies what social workers rarely discuss: the reality that some practitioners—a small but noteworthy minority—are named in ethics complaints and lawsuits. Often, at the time of their misconduct these social workers were struggling with significant issues of professional impairment.
Sadly, Belinda is not alone among the ranks of social workers, including the following, who are named in ethics complaints, lawsuits, and, occasionally, criminal court indictments:. The lawsuit alleged that the social worker failed to take reasonable steps consistent with standards in the field to prevent the suicide.
Ethical Risks in Social Work First, the good news: Relatively few social workers are named in ethics-related complaints or lawsuits, and even fewer encounter criminal charges Barsky, ; Reamer, Perhaps the best empirical evidence of the relatively low incidence of such problems is the annual premium social workers are charged for malpractice and liability insurance.
Compared with most professions, social workers' premiums are low, the principal reason being that social workers are rarely named in complaints and lawsuits.
But the sad reality is that a number of social workers find themselves on the receiving end of complaints and lawsuits.
Just scan the websites sponsored by social work licensing boards, which publicize cases in which licensed or formerly licensed social workers have been disciplined through suspension or revocation of their license, placement on probation, or reprimands.
Many such lists are long, although these practitioners constitute a small fraction of licensed social workers. Even a cursory review demonstrates that social workers have been disciplined for, among other reasons, engaging in sexual relationships with current and former clients, falsifying documents, disclosing confidential and privileged information without authorization, committing financial fraud, terminating services to clients unethically, engaging in conflicts of interest by entering into a business relationship with clients, lying about continuing education courses they completed, providing nontraditional services to clients in a negligent fashion, and failing to document services in a professional manner.
Common Patterns Social workers can find themselves in ethical hot water for several key reasons.Social work is both rewarding and demanding. Being a social worker takes a certain kind of person, and a certain kind of passion, to help individuals and families restore their capacity for social functioning, as well as create the right conditions that support communities in need.
First and foremost, the practice of social work requires knowledge of human development and behavior, of social, economic and cultural institutions, and of the interaction of all these factors.
In order to be successful, you must possess the skills to effectively do your job. The training you receive in school, as well as during internships, will help you develop many of the social work-related skills that will serve you as you grow in your profession.
Being a social worker and building a successful career requires several components, all of which can help fine-tune your skills and fuel your passion. The world needs empathetic and ethical individuals to become social workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for social workers is expected to grow twice as fast as any other occupationespecially in gerontology, home health care, substance abuse, private social service agencies, and school social work.
Essential traits that can help you become an excellent social worker include the ability to actively listen to patients or peers, counsel clients who are experiencing heightened emotions, exhibit a strong sense of empathy, hold insightful and meaningful dialogue, and possess a high level of ethical awareness and responsibility.
Perhaps most importantly, social workers must be advocates for others. Social work author and researcher Frederic Reamer, Ph. What specialty area of social work do you see yourself engaged in?
According to Sonya Hunte, MSW, defining your vision as a social worker forces us to think about the life we want and its components. The keys in creating a vision, she adds, are to have goals, steps, and timelines. Knowing where you want to go in social work and how you are going to get there will greatly enhance your ability to do so.
For example, if you see yourself as a clinical substance abuse counselor, you should think about what level of education you will need, what other credentials are required, and what paths will lead you to realize that vision. By clearly defining your vision, you can proceed with both your education and professional development in a manner that supports your ultimate goals.
Social work is a dynamic profession, requiring you to stay current in the field. Whether it is applying the latest research, understanding a new regulation and its implications, maintaining your license or professional credential, or acquiring additional training to meet the needs of an aging population, you should always be enhancing your professional development.
By being proactive in your professional development and training, you can better grow and manage your career, maintain a practice of excellence and better serve individuals, families, and communities.
All social workers need professional development to enhance their careers, and this can come in the form of continuing education, professional networking, research, advocacy, licensure, and certifications. A recent National Association of Social Workers workforce study actually found that many individuals choose the profession of social work because they have been inspired or advised by a social worker or a mentor. After choosing the profession, social workers must continue to make career choices and respond to a variety of unanticipated challenges.
A social work mentor can provide support and perspective in multiple aspects of your career, including understanding practice specialization opportunities, recognizing strategies to address professional development, navigating workplace dynamics, dealing with career transitions, recognizing your professional strengths, and working on interdisciplinary teams. There are many ways to find mentors in social work, including developing and maintaining trusting relationships with supportive professors, field instructors, or clinical supervisors.
You can also find mentors through social work alumni networks and organizations devoted to your practice specialties. How Social Workers Can Help! Find out why Social Work is a Growing Profession. What it Takes to be a Successful Social Worker.
Previous Next. This is a great read for social workers!Social workers are in a unique position of authority over patients who are typically vulnerable. Unfortunately, some social workers are unethical and may take advantage of their patients sexually, financially or otherwise. Reporting unethical social workers may be emotionally difficult for the victim, but it is important to report unethical behavior to protect other patients. The complainant must be the patient, a guardian of a patient or a member of an organization with direct knowledge of the social worker's conduct.
The complaint process may vary from state to state. You may also file complaints with the National Association of Social Workers if the social worker is a member. Review the current code of ethics for social workers to ensure that the social worker is in violation.
Find a copy on the National Association of Social Workers website. Contact the social work board that has jurisdiction where the alleged unethical social worker works and request a complaint form or locate a state-specific form online. You can find a list of state boards and their contact information on the National Association of Social Workers website.
Complete the form and submit it to the appropriate social work board along with any supporting documentation. Wait for a response and be available to answer follow-up questions. The social work board will respond by letter to inform you if an investigation is not necessary. If an investigation is necessary, the social work board may or may not inform you, depending on state policy.
Social Worker Liability
Some social work boards post the violation on their websites. Contact information is listed on the website. Include information regarding exactly how the social worker violated the NASW Code of Ethics and cite the violated standard.
The standards are on the NASW website. Work with the NASW consultant assigned to your case. Follow any additional instructions from the consultant. Based in Southern California, Kristy Borowik has been writing professionally since She serves as a technical writer and editor, earning several awards from the Society for Technical Communication, with articles also appearing in "Trilogy Life" magazine. By: Kristy Borowik. Report to the State Board Step 1 Review the current code of ethics for social workers to ensure that the social worker is in violation.
About the Author. Photo Credits.Defamation of Character By Frederic G. Leora is a clinical social worker in the emergency department of a private hospital. One afternoon, a year-old boy was rushed to the hospital following an apparent suicide attempt.
The boy had consumed a large quantity of antidepressant medication and benzodiazepines and then cut his wrists. At the hospital, the mother met with Leora, who tried to help her cope with the crisis. The mother insisted that she be allowed to be with her son during his emergency treatment. She had to be restrained by hospital staff when she tried to enter the room where her son was being treated.
Sadly, the boy died in the hospital. Several months later, the mother filed a complaint against the hospital alleging that she was emotionally harmed by the way staffers, including Leora, treated her. History of troubled marriage and conflicting relationships. Clearly has persistent unresolved issues around grief and loss. Shortly thereafter, the mother filed an ethics complaint and lawsuit against the hospital and Leora, including allegations of defamation of character.
Social workers must always be careful to treat clients respectfully and avoid using insulting or insensitive language with or about them.
Defamation occurs when individuals make false statements that injure the reputation of another party and expose him or her to public contempt, hatred, ridicule, or condemnation.
Defamation can take two forms: libel and slander. Social workers can be legally liable for defamation of character if they say or write something about a client that has three elements: the communication was untrue, the social worker knew or should have known that the statement was untrue, and the communication caused some injury to the client. Social workers can take several practical steps to avoid derogatory communications and defamation of character, including the following:.
Avoid imprecise wording. Social workers should carefully word their notes and oral comments. Do not display bias. Social workers should use neutral language that avoids any hint of favoritism.
Father wins damages after social worker falsely accused him of abusing daughter
You can find out more or opt-out from some cookies. If things go wrong with your adult social care, you may have to take legal action to solve the problem. In most cases, making a complaint using the local authority complaints procedure will solve a problem. But in some cases, you might need to take legal action. You could start legal action as well as making a complaint.
However, in very exceptional circumstances, this could happen, for example, if a judge rules that the investigation of a complaint would interfere with the legal case. If you're told that legal action is why your complaint isn't being investigated within a reasonable time-scale, you should get expert advice. You may be able to take legal action so that a court can review the decision of the local authority. This is called judicial review.
For example, this could be an option if you need to challenge a decision not to provide care services. You may be able to take legal action for a breach of one or more human rights under the Human Rights Actfor example:. Local authorities and private companies or voluntary organisations with a contract with the local authority to provide care services have a legal duty to follow the Human Rights Act.
X was staying in hospital following a number of strokes. Against her wishes, the hospital wanted to discharge her and move her into residential care as this would be cheaper than caring for her at home. She argued that if she was moved into residential care, this would have a negative impact on her mental health and would be against her human rights.
As a result, funding was arranged to support her care at home. This example is based on a case study written by the Britsih Institute of Human Rights. For more details, go to: www. You will almost always need specialised legal advice to take one of the cases described above. Your local Healthwatch might be able to give you the details of local specialist solicitors.
Taking Social Services To Court
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Jonathan Coupland was arrested and questioned for ten hours after Suzi Smith reported seeing him sexually assaulting Jessica, then aged six, according to the Daily Mail. The social worker made the claims after becoming annoyed when Mr Coupland criticised her handling of his custody battle with his former partner.
Retired Army officer appears in court over wife 'murder'. Leeds fire: thick black smoke blankets city. Laws to make online pornography sites ban children. Chris Grayling: 'We must stop the legal aid abusers'. Mrs Smith has since been sacked but Mr Coupland wants to see her prosecuted for misconduct in public office. The former painter and decorator bought up his daughter alone after being granted custody shortly after she was born in December Mr Coupland believes this was in retaliation after he asked for her to be removed from the case because he felt she had acted unprofessionally by contacting one of his character witnesses during the custody proceedings.
Officers told Mr Coupland Jessica would be placed in temporary care but he begged them to allow her to stay with her grandmother.
A day later, police said they were dropping the investigation as Mrs Smith had retracted her allegation. She was sacked by Cafcass for gross misconduct, but only left work six months after making the false allegation.
She has done the opposite and got away with it. It will be that way until Suzi Smith is taken to court and proven to be a liar. Mrs Smith confirmed yesterday that she was dismissed by Cafcass six months after making her allegation against Mr Coupland. An internal investigation by Lincolnshire Police found its officers were justified in arresting Mr Coupland. The male was released without charge. Terms and Conditions. Style Book. Weather Forecast.
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