"Legal Ethics and High Child Welfare Worker Turnover: An Unexplored Connection"

Michigan Law Authors
Publish Date
Children and Youth Services Review
Publication Type
Journal Article

This article, which grew out of a series of 11 focus groups with child welfare workers and supervisors, explores how legal ethics may increase the stress child welfare workers experience in carrying out their duties and may contribute to high rates of turnover. A number of workers experienced their interaction with lawyers and the legal system as extremely stressful. Others misunderstood the role of a lawyer. This article considers the various sources of legal and social work ethics and standards of practice at work in lawyer–social worker interaction in the child welfare context and provides a comparison of legal ethics with social work ethics on a number of dimensions. Ethical issues such as defining the client, confidentiality, client loyalty and zealous advocacy are considered. Additionally, issues which are not specifically ethical in nature but are closely related are considered. These include efforts to be objective in handling the work, the personal affront experienced by many child welfare workers when their judgment is called into question and methods of communication. The article concludes that there is a need for training to assist child welfare workers to understand legal ethics and how they contribute to high turnover rates.

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