mandated reporting Let's return to the NASW Code of Ethics for some practice questions. Here's one based upon the very first item in the "Social Workers' Ethical Responsibilities to Clients":

A child tells a social worker about being hit by her father on multiple occasions. She shows the social worker bruises that resulted. "But you can't tell anyone," the girl says. "If he finds out, he'll kill me!" What is the BEST course of action for the social worker to take?

A. Make a report to the police.

B. Make a report to child protective services.

C. Discuss mandated reporting with the client.

D. Get more detail about the father's violence.

What's your answer?

The relevant section of the Code of Ethics is 1.01 Commitment to Clients:

Social workers' primary responsibility is to promote the well-being of clients. In general, clients' interests are primary. However, social workers' responsibility to the larger society or specific legal obligations may on limited occasions supersede the loyalty owed clients, and clients should be so advised. (Examples include when a social worker is required by law to report that a client has abused a child or has threatened to harm self or others.)

Social workers promote client well-being. However, legal requirements--such as abuse reporting--take precedent. So the answer here is that the abuse must be reported. The father has been violent on multiple occasions and left bruises on his daughter. Not a close call. So do you call the police or child protective services?  Well, is there something special here that would warrant a call to the police instead of child protective services? Not really. Call child protective services. That's what they're there for. If they want to involve the police, they can. Our answer is B).

For more about social workers obligations as mandated reporters, take a look at:

For more questions about mandated reporting and lots more, sign up for SWTP's full-length practice tests!

October 6, 2016
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