Social Work Practice

The Journal Ethics and Social Welfare calls for papers for a special issue on Ethical Conflicts in Social Work Practice: Challenges and Opportunities.

Guest editors: Corey Shdaimah (University of Maryland) and Roni Strier (University of Haifa)

Rationale: Social workers often practice within institutions or organizations that have goals, policies, or environments that are not driven by social work values. This is common for practitioners of value-based professions, and has been widely reported. Ethical conflicts, and the moral distress which they may cause, can give rise to unease, guilt, and burnout (Raines 2000). They may also provide the impetus for reflection and growth (Hardingham 2004). In one study of 130 critical incidents faced by Israeli social workers, the chief source of ethical conflict in the workplace was the inability to act in accordance with their professional judgement or resorting to deception in order to do so (Savaya, Gardner, & Stange, 2011). Ethical conflicts may flow from the difficulty in ascertaining who is the “client” when social workers serve the institution, individual clients, clients as a group and families (Lev & Ayalon, 2015). Some social workers may also remain in situations of value conflicts in the hope that they can mitigate harms until they feel that they no longer have an ability to practice ethically (Buser, 2015). Reliance on employers for their livelihood may cause social workers to ignore or downplay value conflicts, sometimes unconsciously. Others may use their discretion to engage in what has been described as “moral entrepreneurship” to make choices that best conform to their personal and professional values when confronted with difficult choices due to limited resources and bureaucratic constraints (Hasenfeld, 2000). Social workers’ ability to negotiate ethical concerns in the workplace often depends on the practice setting and the broader political environment (DiFranks, 2008; Rush & Keenan, 2016). Cultural expectations may also inform whether and how social workers perceive and respond to ethical concerns within these settings.

Brief for contributors: We invite submissions from practicing social workers and academics reflecting on practical, empirical, or conceptual aspects of ethical concerns that arise from workplace settings that have goals, policies, or environments that may conflict with social work values. We seek papers that address these concerns in a wide variety of practice arenas that may include social services, prisons, hospitals, schools, child welfare, community care and private practice settings. We also seek papers that describe such challenges at different levels of practice (individuals, families, community, and policy practice). We are particularly interested in papers from a variety of national contexts as well as international comparisons.

These may address:

  • Conflicts and dilemmas of frontline workers, who as street-level bureaucrats practice at the intersection of agency policy and the clients they serve;
  • The impact of neo-liberalism and new public management practices on how ethical conflicts are identified and resolved, especially in government and non-profit practice settings;
  • How social workers navigate and respond, individually and collectively, to policies of austerity and retrenchment;
  • The role of social work education, supervision, and Code of Ethics in preparing social workers to identify and manage ethical conflicts that arise from a mismatch between social work values and organizational/institutional setting;
  • How ethical conflicts that arise from tensions between social work values and organizational goals and priorities are addressed and resolved in different practice settings and workplace environments;
  • How social workers from diverse backgrounds, including different religions, racial/ethnic groups, and cultures perceive and resolve ethical conflicts in institutional and organizational contexts.

Practice papers

The editors also welcome personal accounts of the views and experiences of service-users, practitioners and carers in relation to political activism.

Practice papers may range from 2,000-3,000 words for written papers or up to 1,000 words for case studies.

Authors’ Instructions

Interested colleagues are requested to submit abstracts of up to 200 words (for both academic papers AND practice papers) on or before October 1, 2018 to Associate Professor Corey  Author’s instructions for academic and practice papers can be found on the journal website

Abstracts should contain a short statement detailing:

  • The essential information of the submission
  • The submission’s aim, results and conclusionsThe abstracts will be considered by November 15, 2018 and submitters will be informed about the outcome as soon as possible after this date.
    In the event that more submissions are received than can be accommodated in this Special Issue, any paper that referees and editors agree is publishable will be included in a general issue as soon as possible after the Special Issue – and may be published electronically before then.

Timeline for completion of papers:

Deadline for receipt of first draft of papers June 1, 2019
Revised pieces received and edited November 1, 2019
Any additional edits requested to be received by January 7, 2020
View to publication February 2020

About the author: Webteam

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