Client Relationships and Ethical Boundaries for Social Workers in Child Welfare

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Previous Clients Arise in Personal Life

I had a client approximately 10 years ago who was a minor at the time. I would mostly follow up with father and met mother about 2-3 times. Flash forward 10 years and my son invited his friend from school for his birthday party. Mother looked familiar and stated I looked familiar as well. After a lot of thinking after the birthday party I realized her son had been my client years before. My son wants to invite his friend over to the house but I'm unsure as I have worked with the family previously. In this case it has been a lot of years but I'm wondering what would happen if I have this situation arise again but the client was recent?

Vanessa Ibarra more than 1 year ago

ethical and moral issues in this case

Maxine is a Social Work, who encourages her clients to call her at home when they need her. She allows her clients to be friends on her social media plat forms. She lends money to her clients when they are destitute, she encourages out of office social gathering for drinks and lyming.
Maxine gives a little shoulder rubs and light touches during her sessions. She says this soothes her clients and allows them to feel at ease. She says she lives for her work and she treats her clients as she would want to be treated.

Kadian McDonald more than 2 years ago


There are multiple boundary crossings and/or boundary violations in this case, which may or may not be unethical. In some situations, for example, a boundary crossing such as "encourages her clients to call her" after hours may be acceptable and ethical. More information is needed to determine this. more than 2 years ago

If I knew a client at a drug rehab for 20+ years is it unethical if I then form a relationship with him after he is discharged?

Is it unethical if I know a client in the drug rehab I worked in and after discharge we form a relationship if I have known him for 20+ years?

Keri Ann Washburn more than 4 years ago


If you are referring to a sexual relationship, the NASW Code of Ethics states:

"(c) Social workers should not engage in sexual activities or sexual contact with former clients because of the potential for harm to the client. If social workers engage in conduct contrary to this prohibition or claim that an exception to this prohibition is warranted because of extraordinary circumstances, it is social workers--not their clients--who assume the full burden of demonstrating that the former client has not been exploited, coerced, or manipulated, intentionally or unintentionally." more than 4 years ago


What actions can I take when on my caseworker that supervised my visits is in relations with her client which is my ex

Rick more than 3 years ago

Unethical behavior

If you believe your caseworker is engaged in unethical behavior there are several avenues for reporting this. You can report to the agency where the person works, to the state licensing board if the person is a licensed social worker, to the NASW (National Association of Social Workers) if the person is an NASW member. more than 3 years ago

Ethical boundaries for social workers and clients

Is it a violation of ethical boundary if I work in HSS and mental health clinician and met kids at both jobs?

Sadiku Mohammed more than 4 years ago


The NASW Code of Ethics states: (c) Social workers should not engage in dual or multiple relationships with clients or former clients in which there is a risk of exploitation or potential harm to the client. In instances when dual or multiple relationships are unavoidable, social workers should take steps to protect clients and are responsible for setting clear, appropriate, and culturally sensitive boundaries. (Dual or multiple relationships occur when social workers relate to clients in more than one relationship, whether professional, social, or business. Dual or multiple relationships can occur simultaneously or consecutively.)

The key to whether the dual relationship is unethical or not is whether there is the potential of exploitation or harm to the client. This situation also brings up questions of confidentiality and informed consent. As always, I would talk to supervisors in both agencies about any ethical issues/questions, as well as any agency policies that might apply to your particular situation. more than 4 years ago

client has a warrant out for him

the police are looking for my client is it ethical to turn him in

sheila v sheppard more than 6 years ago


I had a visit with my social worker last week and she has homework that she assigns me to do for the following week yet wants me to buy a binder (folder) to keep the assignments inside of. She then told me that if I showed up without the binder, I wouldn't be allowed in the office. Doesn' that sound kind of harsh and does she have the right to make this demand a client?

JT more than 6 years ago

sexual relations between client and social worker

If meeting the needs of the client is required, and the client wants a sexual relationship with the social worker, will there be a problem if such sexual activity occurs?

brandon more than 6 years ago

Yes, there is a problem

Yes, this is problematic and unethical, and it is specifically prohibited by the NASW Code of Ethics. See section 1.09 of the Code at: more than 6 years ago

practice location regulations

My spouse recently died and I need to sell our family home. I would like to convert the house I use for clinical practice to part residence and part office. What are the limitations and/or requirements for this. I am licensed in the state of Ohio as an LISW-S

Connie Chamberlain more than 8 years ago

Why do they do it?

I have a suggestion for your question of why do they violate those boundaries?! Because in my experience in child welfare for 6 years in Pennsylvania-very rarely are they social workers. They may have their degree in psychology, art, music, or basket- weaving but they are still hired on as caseworkers and therefore have no "ethical" obligations or licensing standards. This is a huge problem that really must be addressed before we can hope to see change. Further, the people who are put in SUPERVISOR and ADMINISTRATIVE positions are not social workers therefore making it even worse for caseworkers who ARE social workers to try and maneuver a system in which their supervisors and administrators don't care, don't follow ethical or sometimes even legal standards. Unfortunately here, it still is the same way and until that can change I don't see much change happening in the child welfare system! :-(

Stephanie more than 8 years ago

Professional self

Helping people requires genuine connection; doing so professionally requires a level of detachment. My metaphor for the professional self is the placenta. It allows through what helps the fetus develop & grow; it filters out what's potentially harmful, even if completely harmless to the mother.

Professional helpers don't have a biological organ like the placenta to do this. Through training & practice, we instead develop an observing self. This must serve to monitor our own reactions and responses, even as we attend to what the client is saying and not saying, feeling & repressing, thinking & avoiding. Why do I say that? Does that serve some need of mine? Most importantly, does this help the client to grow? Would I think of something *more* helpful to say if I set my need aside, and satisfy that in some more appropriate, non-client context? Clearly, this is a lot more work than letting an organ independently do its work.

Tony Vazquez more than 9 years ago

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