Please read the following case scenario and then complete the task described below.
Kelsie is a case-worker in an out-of-home care (OOHC) agency in regional NSW. One of the young people she works with, Bayden, aged 14, is currently living in a group home run by a third-party provider which is contracted by the NSW Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) to run a residential service for young people in OOHC.
Bayden has a history of trauma (aged 8: found his birth father, Andrew, deceased from a drug overdose in the family home; aged 12: birth mother, Jenny, imprisoned with a considerable sentence for violent assault in relation to theft). Community members had repeatedly reported concerns of neglect, but until her imprisonment Jenny had always sufficiently addressed these through working with DCJ. Extended family members were estranged, and when Jenny was imprisoned, they declined to become involved in Bayden’s care due to his complex trauma-related behaviours which included poor educational engagement and minor interactions with the juvenile justice system. Bayden was initially placed in foster care but after his first year in care, his carer asked for him to be placed elsewhere and he entered the group home. While living in the group home over the past 11 months, there have been a number of times where he has narrowly avoided entering custody in the regional juvenile justice facility for a mix of property theft, property damage and low-level assault. Matters have been slowly escalating and the last time he came to the notice of the police, the magistrate who reviewed the case told Bayden that the next time this happened, he would be sentenced.
The manager of the group home has called Kelsie to an urgent meeting with four senior careworkers. The previous evening, after a younger care worker, Ana, finished her shift and was unlocking her car in the street outside the home, Bayden threw a small sharp rock which he claimed was intended as a ‘joke’, to make her jump. The rock lodged deep in Ana’s upper arm and another worker who was leaving drove her to the emergency department, while one of the senior workers, who witnessed the incident, ordered Bayden inside.
The workers all express disappointment over this incident as since his last interaction with the magistrate, Bayden had been making efforts to relate better to other residents in the house as well as staff. Ana doesn’t want the incident reported to police, but the senior workers are split over it: two of them feel that it should be reported, to send a message to Bayden that further escalating behaviour stops here. They point out that more permanent damage to whomever
the innocent third party happens to be might very likely be the result next time, and if that happened then Bayden would end up with a more severe sentence for his first incarceration. The other two senior workers would rather deal with it ‘in-house’, saying that any time in the juvenile justice centre might well serve to compound Bayden’s antisocial behaviours.
The manager himself isn’t sure what would be in Bayden’s best interests, which is why he is seeking Kelsie’s advice.
Should Kelsie make the case to the group home staff and manager that Bayden’s latest low-level assault be reported to police? Or should she argue for the issue to be dealt with ‘inhouse’?
You may structure your assignment in the way that works best for what you have to say – but each of the elements of the task below must be covered:
- Explain the ethical theories of utilitarianism and deontology, as well as the four principles of service
- Apply these ethical theories and principles to the two options facing Kelsie. Your application of the theories and principles will be supported by reference to research evidence relevant to youth who interact with both child protection and juvenile justice systems.
- Use ethical reasoning to argue for the choice that Kelsie should make.
(Your assignment must make clear which choice you believe is the best one in this situation, and why you believe this is the best choice, all things considered.)
Your assignment must be well presented and appropriately researched. A minimum of 8 reliable sources must be cited, and these must include both SWK423 textbooks. A reference list must be included and both the citations and reference list must be formatted following APA 7. Please submit your assignment as a Word document if possible (our experience is that this facilitates the provision of marker feedback).
1: Do not ‘avoid the dilemma’
You might believe that there is a simple answer for Kelsie. However, this kind of situation poses a professional ethical dilemma for many workers. Therefore, you will be assessed not on the specific answer that you give, but on your capacity to fully describe and analyse the ethical implications of both options facing Kelsie in terms of the ethical theories and principles, and argue cogently for the conclusion you choose. Although you will need to come to your own conclusion about what Kelsie should do at the end of your assignment, an assignment that tries to ‘avoid the dilemma’ by only applying the ethical theories and principles to one of the options facing Kelsie above will score poorly on marking criteria 2 and 3.
2: Focus on ethics
This assignment is about your understanding and navigation of the ethical complexities underlying practice situations. While the practical possibilities within social work environments must constrain your response to the task, and will therefore appear to some degree in your assignment, make sure that your understanding and application of ethical theories and principles and ethical reasoning is the primary focus.
3: Reliable sources
Reliable sources for the purposes of this assignment include:
- academic books and journal articles, including the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (https://www.iep.utm.edu/);
- the SWK423 textbooks (note that these must be cited in the assignment); and
- government publications and websites.